Good afternoon Fitchburg Residents,
I would like to begin by thanking our residents and businesses. This week marks two weeks from the time Governor Baker took emergency action and suspended operations of our schools, bars, and restaurants, and declared that only essential services report to work. This was a heavy burden on behalf of all residents and businesses, however, despite these turn of events Fitchburg has continued to show support. We have shown support by social distancing, helping our neighbors, spending dollars locally for to-go food options, donated supplies, and volunteering our resources. I wish to express a heartfelt thank you to you all for these efforts.
Yesterday, Governor Baker issued an extension to the non-essential business emergency order, until May 4, 2020, and the Department of Public Health’s Stay-At-Home Advisory remains in effect. Updates by the Baker Administration have been made to provide clarification and additions of essential services and workforces related to COVID-19 that are permitted to operate brick and mortar facilities during the emergency. A list of those services can be found here.
On March 16, 2020, I had issued a directive that would close all municipal owned buildings to the public, with minor exceptions to the Police and Fire Departments, moved municipal staffing levels to essential personnel, and non-essential staff to be working remotely. This was in effect from March 17, 2020 – April 6, 2020.
To align the City’s operations with Governor Baker’s Executive order, The City of Fitchburg will continue to work on essential staffing levels and will remain closed to the public, until May 4, 2020. However, I would like to emphasize that the City is still open to conduct business through telephone and email. Constituents and businesses can call City departments, visit our website, and schedule inspections with related inspectional departments. I do ask for your patience during this time as we are working with minimal staff. As a reminder, if your phone call is not immediately answered, please leave a detailed voice message and municipal staff will get back to you.
I would like to directly address the rumors regarding the temporary facilities that have been staged at the Civic Center. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, for over two decades, have sited the Civic Center as an area for emergency staging. At this time, Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg Police and Fire Departments have been working with MEMA and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to host contingency plans including the support of continued operations of mortuary services. This temporary facility will provide increased short-term capacity for cities, towns, and medical facilities, if necessary in the event of an increase in decedents or a decrease in the mortuary workforce. Hospital mortuary space varies widely across Massachusetts. The staging area will, if necessary, act as a bridge between health care facilities and funeral homes and crematories. This will allow mortuary service providers to keep their services operating in a way that’s safe for staff and respectful of each decedent. Furthermore, the staging area poses no risk to our personnel or the public at large. In the face of an unprecedented crisis, the City of Fitchburg and Fitchburg State University have an opportunity to contribute to the Commonwealth’s response. If these short-term storage services become necessary, the public health benefits will save lives here and across Massachusetts. I would also like to personally thank Fitchburg State University for their efforts and support on this matter.
As we continue this battle on COVID-19, Massachusetts has taken some of the earliest and most unprecedented measures in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. We must continue to be aggressive in our pursuits. To extend the non-essential business emergency order, and the Stay-At-Home Advisory, is difficult to hear and comes with a very high cost to the bottom line of our local businesses and resident’s check books. However, these costs, are the very measures necessary to protect the health and safety of our residents, and those health care, public safety, and essential personnel that are battling the front lines of this virus.
As advised by both the Federal and State governments, the next few weeks will be trying times for Fitchburg and the Commonwealth. I am strongly encouraging residents to stay home, and practice social distancing. When you become frustrated from staying at home, sad that you cannot attend a family party, or isolated because you cannot attend your place of worship, I want you all to remember one thing: you are making a large positive difference by staying home. You are reducing the spread of the virus, allowing health care providers to attend to people most in need, and keeping our essential personnel safe so that they can continue services.
In addition to staying home, there are a few ways you can help:
- The Commonwealth has created a personal protection equipment donation and procurement portal. If you are a business, resident, or have the capability of manufacturing PPE, please click here on how you can help.
- The Commonwealth has created a Health Professional volunteer portal for COVID-19 relief. If you have the necessary credentials – we ask for your help, please click here.
- Donating blood products is essential to our community health and the need for blood products is constant. The American Red Cross is encouraging individuals to keep scheduled donation appointments. If you have not scheduled an appointment and would like to, the Red cross is taking new donation appointments. Please click here to see how you can help.
As a matter of traditional City business – I would like to remind everyone that today is National Census Day. While we are all practicing social distancing and staying at home, now is the opportunity to answer the 2020 census. The data collected during the Federal Census is very important as it determines federal funding for our community, our representation in Congress, and planning decisions made in Fitchburg. The census is safe, confidential, and your answers are protected. Please visit our website for more information on how to answer the census.
I would also like to remind everyone that The Fitchburg Downtown Transformation Project, conversion of Main Street and Boulder Drive to two-way, is still accepting public comment on the 25% designs through April 10, 2020. You can visit our website where discussions of the plans, visuals, and explanations can be found.
This week, Rollstone Bank & Trust announced the donation of $19,000 to surrounding communities to help cope with burdens resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, Rollstone will be supporting Fitchburg Public Schools to provide meals to students and families. A special thank you to Rollstone Bank for their generous support.
I want to conclude the same way that Governor Baker did yesterday in his press release. It is important to point out how purposeful it is that we all take seriously these issues associated with distance. It is in many respects, our single biggest weapon in battling COVID-19. I am urging residents to please practice social distancing, and continue to practice good hygiene.
On behalf of the City of Fitchburg I would like to thank you. Thank you to the nurses, doctors, front-line medical workers and first responders for all the work that they do. I want to say thank you to our municipal staff who continue to show up to work and are serving the public. Also, to those essential services in the private sector, who are conducting important work so that we all can continue to keep the people of Massachusetts and Fitchburg safe and healthy, thank you.
-Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale