Good afternoon Fitchburg residents,
Yesterday marked the first day of National Public Health Week, a week of particular significance as it is happening during the coronavirus pandemic.
Please take a moment to recognize the extraordinary public health efforts underway in Fitchburg, our region and throughout the country.
The Fitchburg Health Department consists of several divisions - Housing Inspection, Food Inspection, Solid Waste, Nursing and Substance Abuse Prevention - all of which are ably backed by dedicated clerks who provide ongoing support on a daily basis.
I would like to recognize our Health Director Steven Curry, Public Health Nurse Dorothy McNamara, and the volunteer nurses who are working tirelessly to provide services during this pandemic.
Furthermore, I would like to recognize our appointed Board of Health – Chairman Dr. John Bogdasarian, Ian Murray and Sandra Knipe, RN BSN. The Board continues to maintain, protect and improve the health, safety and well-being of the people of Fitchburg.
I am happy to report during the weekend, our Board of Health established a COVID-19 hotline. As part of the Montachusett Public Health Network (MPHN), this hotline is staffed with several volunteer nurses and medical residents’ who will answer COVID-19 questions for residents’ of Fitchburg and communities made up of MPHN. Community members can call 844.968.3323, with phone availability 24/7. In addition to the hotline, Mass. Department of Public Health funded MPHN $200,000 to help assist Fitchburg and the network fight COVID-19.
As of 1pm today, there are a total of 66 positive COVID-19 cases in Fitchburg, of which 18 are now recovered. It is important to note that the Board of Health is now seeing a trend of quarantine cases testing positive. This is an important reminder of how contagious this virus is. Remember, if you are quarantined, you have had potential exposure to a positive confirmed COVID-19 patient. I urge quarantine residents to not leave your home, unless to seek urgent medical care. In the event you call for medical services, please disclose to 911 dispatch that you are quarantined, so that they may take the proper medical steps to answer the call. In the event you are ordered isolated, it means you are a confirmed case of COVID-19. In addition to the quarantined orders, please understand you are a heightened risk of exposure to others and must stay isolated until you are fully recovered from the virus. If we collectively work together to follow these orders and conditions, we will all help play a role in stopping the spread of the virus.
For the past week, City Departments have been working with staff from Our Fathers House to open a quarantine location for the homeless population. This location will allow for onsite showers, toilets and hand-wash stations. With the help of the Dept. of Housing and Community Development and Massachusetts Emergency Management, Our Fathers House is seeking additional assistance from volunteers to help in various roles. If you are interested in helping, please email Our Fathers House at email@example.com. More details will be forthcoming over the next few days.
Last week, with the assistance of our Department of Public Works and our Legal Department, I filed an order to the City Council that would allow the City to enter into an Agreement with Massachusetts Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network. The purpose of entering into this Agreement is to support and promote statewide emergency planning, preparedness, and coordinate response activities and share resources during emergencies among water and wastewater utilities. I look forward to council’s approval of this agreement and I thank them for their cooperation.
In addition to the DPW, City Departments have continued to make adjustments to their business continuity plans as to maintain services with essential staff. In particular, the men and women of the Police and Fire Department have maintained staffing for operational needs, have developed plans and protocols, and have worked with agencies such as MEMA and Fitchburg State University Police Department for coordination and emergency preparedness.
I am pleased to report, as part of the federal government’s CARES Act, the City of Fitchburg will receive an additional $586,047 for our Community Development Block Grant. CDBG provides direct federal supports to local governments, so cities can develop solutions that work for them. In a crisis such as this, additional CDBG funding will allow us to meet critical needs in Fitchburg, such as support for small businesses and vulnerable citizens most affected by this crisis. We will look to focus this funding in areas of community-identified need, and areas where we can leverage these dollars with other community supports to expand our impact further.
On Friday, The Governor signed An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19. This bill assists cities and towns with a broad range of governance and budgeting issues during this COVID-19 emergency. Currently, our City Treasurer is working with the Division of Local Services on implementing the finance provisions in the bill, as we wait for DLS’s guidance and information. Also, our City Clerk is in the process of notifying businesses licensed to sell alcoholic beverages on-premise, that they may now sell sealed containers of alcoholic beverages for off-premise consumption as part of take-out food transactions. I would like to thank the Governor, his administration, and our state delegation for acting quickly on this bill to provide relief to municipalities, such as Fitchburg.
Yesterday, the Governor reported that early data sets are revealing the measures Massachusetts has taken to combat the spread of the virus, are showing signs of improvement in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Although this news is cautiously optimistic, this does not mean we change our mission and the new changes to our life style. We must actively continue to stay at home, practice good hygiene and social distancing. I would also ask, while I am happy to see residents protecting themselves with gloves and masks, please dispose of them properly. This is a team effort, and part of that effort is cleaning up after yourself, and not leaving it for someone else to do for you.
I would like to close today’s updates by once again recognizing Fitchburg Businesses doing extraordinary things. Sal Emma, of TeacherLock, traditionally manufactures specialized locks that are placed in schools to help protect students and teachers during times of emergency. However, during this emergency, Sal and his team have changed the production of their 3D printers and have begun manufacturing respirators for health care providers. Owner of JR Glass, Ryan Bessette, also has his team putting their skills to the test by manufacturing intubation boxes out of polycarbonate material for surgeons and hospitals. In addition, JR Glass is making counter guards to help protect those workers in retail settings during customer transactions. This is yet another example small businesses making a large impact, thank you!
Several weeks have passed, and many decisions have been made. Yet our first responders and municipal staff are still providing the services we need to maintain a functional community. I am abundantly thankful for their efforts and their dedication to our City.
-Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale