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New Bedford Public Schools “ahead of the curve” adding HEPA air scrubbers to classrooms

Schools receive HEPA air filtration units as Phase III of reopening begins.

New Bedford Public Schools are being equipped with state-of-the-art HEPA air scrubbers as schools began Phase 3 of students’ gradual return to classroom instruction this week.

Stressing strict adherence to health and safety protocols, Superintendent Thomas Anderson stated “We are effectively implementing our reopening plan with improved ventilation in classrooms with over 600 portable air exchange units, improved window functioning, frequent disinfecting, and clear rules on wearing masks for all students and staff, and appropriate distancing.”

The purchase of the HEPA air scrubbers comes in response to a comprehensive study of airflow over the last 3 months. New Bedford Public Schools engaged with a pre-qualified state contract vendor to assess airflow within its school buildings. The objective of the effort was to establish a complete understanding of each school building’s ability to meet and maintain appropriate air exchange and airflow at a healthy level for school reopening.

A district stakeholder group studied the reports. The group included a school committee member, school principals, operations staff and the heads of staff collective bargaining units. Andrew O’Leary, Assistant Superintendent of Finance & Operations, noted, “This comprehensive process puts our district well ahead of the curve in terms of delineating areas needing improvement and addressing them with state of the art equipment,”

Adding that the air scrubbers represent a significant investment to ensure air quality, Mr. O’Leary, said the estimated final cost of the investment is over $450,000, which is supported by per pupil COVID Relief funding awarded in July.

“Engineers performed a site analysis of 24 sites to review the existing HVAC and ventilation systems. Our month-long review of our ventilation needs has led us to a consensus on widespread deployment of HEPA air purification devices,” Mr. O’ Leary said.

The new air scrubbers come at the start of Phase III of the district reopening plan, October 5. In his weekly video update, Superintendent Anderson stated, “This week we added Cohort B students, 1,070 in B1 and 1080 in B2, in addition to the current 400 students in Cohort A. These totals equal 19% of our total population of over 13,000 students. Our precautions are in place, including strict enforcement of 6-foot physical distancing and mask wearing for everyone.”

The air scrubber units have a four-stage filter system and an airflow rate of 600 cubic feet per minute, according to the manufacturer’s product data.

Speaking on the distribution plan, Mr. O’Leary said, “The first round of 300 air scrubbers were deployed to the older school buildings last week with a second round of an additional 330 units delivered this week for the secondary schools and newer elementary schools, which all have advanced building management systems.”

The work of the district stakeholder group on airflow also drew from recommendations from the Healthy Buildings initiative of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s guidance on facilities reopening. The review process led to recommended steps for each building type, including initial steps such as opening windows and use of box fans, to air “flush outs” mornings and evenings, to modification of mechanical system settings to maximize outdoor air.




Acushnet and Dartmouth joins New Bedford as COVID-19 “high-risk”

After seeing case numbers rising over the past few weeks, both Dartmouth and Acushnet were elevated to high-risk by Massachusetts Health Officials which means that there are more than eight cases per 100,000 residents.

This comes as no surprise to Acushnet Police Chief Kevin Gallagher who had been expressing his frustrations over the past few months when it came to his requests for help from the state as far back as July. He felt the state had a lack of interest in helping and had made numerous requests for a COVID-19 testing van that fell on deaf ears and wasn’t answered for weeks.

About this recent news, Chief Gallagher said “It’s not a surprise. We saw this coming. [This is] a sobering update from the state last night. Now is the time to redouble your personal practices (masks, hand washing, and social distancing). Reminder, the Town is providing COVID testing free of charge on Saturday from 9:00am – 1:00pm at the parking lot between the schools.”

Acushnet has a total of 134 positive COVID-19 cases with 14 of those happening in the past 2 weeks. The Town of Acushnet has already been testing town officials and school teachers. New Bedford has a total of 2,764 positive test results and 139 in the past two weeks.

The Town of Dartmouth has 608 positive COVID-19 cases with 42 of them being in the past 2 weeks. As of the time of this article, Dartmouth officials have not responded to emails and phone messages. We’ll update the article if and when they do make a statement.

New Bedford has been listed as high-risk for a month now.




More than 1,200 coronavirus cases confirmed in Massachusetts over the weekend

Chris Lisinski
State House News Service

Public health officials reported more than 1,200 additional COVID-19 cases and 20 confirmed deaths in Massachusetts over the weekend, further adding to the state’s caseload amid a steady uptick in transmission.

The Department of Public Health confirmed 600 new cases on Saturday from 13,813 individuals newly tested, a positive test rate of about 4.3 percent. On Sunday, the department reported 626 new cases from 18,981 individuals tested, a positive rate of about 3.3 percent. Saturday’s report counted 17 confirmed fatalities and Sunday’s added another three, bringing the state’s total number of deaths among confirmed COVID-19 cases to 9,295. When counting both confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths, the toll stood at 9,510 as of Sunday.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients dropped by five in Saturday’s report and then increased by 22 in Sunday’s to 438, which is 30 more than one week earlier. DPH does not specify how many were hospitalized for the highly infectious virus, but Gov. Charlie Baker said last week that an unspecified number were hospitalized for other health reasons and then tested positive.

The seven-day weighted average positive test rate, which DPH calculates based on all tests that come back positive and not the number of individuals who test positive, remained at 1.1 percent Sunday, where it has been since last week. Amid the increases, Massachusetts communities deemed “lower-risk” based on incidence rates of the highly infectious virus can proceed Monday into the next phase of economic reopening, which includes allowing indoor performance venues to reopen and increasing some business capacity limits.

Twenty-nine municipalities, including the state’s four largest cities, are not permitted to advance and must continue to operate under current restrictions.




Dartmouth’s Fay’s Restaurant announces precautions being taken for staff who tested positive for COVID-19

“Dear valued guest,

In strict compliance with the guidelines set forth by the CDC, Dartmouth Board of Health, and OSHA and to provide the highest degree of transparency, we are informing our community that a team member at our restaurant has recently tested positive for COVID-19. We excused this team member from any work-related activity when the team member displayed underlying symptoms of Covid-19 and promptly sent the team member home.

According to the Dartmouth Board of Health and the Massachusetts Department of Health, we are cleared to resume operations as normal, but we took it upon ourselves to close Thursday, October 1st in order to sanitize, using an outside firm, and get additional testing. All other team members tested negative.

Fay’s Restaurant has exceeded the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our team and guests. These steps include:

– The team member will not be permitted to return to work until meeting all CDC guidelines. These include: allowing at least fourteen (14) days to pass, testing negative twice within a 24 hour period in secondary COVID-19 testing, and/or they must be without fever and symptoms (under 100.4° F without fever-reducing medication) for 72 hours, with or without secondary COVID-19 testing.

– Performing a comprehensive investigation of the employee’s contact with others throughout the restaurant. From this investigation, we have informed necessary team members, third-parties, and authorities to ensure that the issue is contained to the highest degree. Any team members who are symptomatic but have not been tested for COVID-19 will not be permitted to work.

– We will continue our rigorous cleaning and sanitizing program of the entire workspace throughout our hours of operation as well as having our PPE on at all times and taking team member temperatures before team members start to work, random checks throughout the day, and a final one upon exiting the restaurant.

As always, the community’s and our team members’ continued health and wellness are always our top priority and we will do everything in our control to make Fay’s Restaurant the safest customer experience possible.

Thank you for your understanding.” -Fay’s Restaurant.




Massachusetts city requires mandatory face masks in public or be fined $300

Since the pandemic arrived in March Governor Baker and mayors throughout the state have imposed or suggested the donning of face masks in situations where 6′ of social distancing was not possible. This was more of a precaution and safety protocol and wasn’t made mandatory at all times, everywhere, just when the social distancing protocols couldn’t be followed.

Until now.

The City of Cambridge recently announced an emergency order will go into effect on Friday, October 2 mandating that a mask (or face covering) would have to be worn “..in all public places, businesses and common areas of residential buildings. Public places include sidewalks, streets, parks, plazas, bus stops, non-residential parking lots and garages, and any other outdoor area or non-residential parking facility which is open and accessible to the general public.”

It doesn’t matter if that person is 6′ feet away or 600′ feet away. If you are over the age of two you must wear a mask.

This is in response to spike in Cambridge’s positive COVID-19 tests, likely due to the return of university students to the city at the advent of fall classes.

Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale said “With people spending more time indoors, there is an increased risk of spreading COVID-19. By tightening and clarifying our face-covering requirements now, we hope to continue minimizing COVID-19 risk in Cambridge.”

Opponents of wearing face masks say it is an infringement on their civil liberties, unconstitutional and with some even calling it tyranny. They are worried that there could be a Domino Effect whereby other cities fall Cambridge’s footsteps, pushing the “tyranny” even further and stripping people of even more rights.

Proponents quote the scientific data on the effectiveness and preventative nature of masks, that it is a minor inconvenience, and that it will lower infection rates allowing everyone to safely return work and get the economy and life going again.

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Do you wear a mask or choose not to? What are your reasons either way? How would you feel if Mayor Mitchell followed Cambridge’s mandate and fined New Bedford residents for not wearing one in public? Leave us a comment below or inbox us at info@newbedfordguide.com.




10 more Massachusetts cities added to the list of those deemed ‘high risk’ for COVID-19

10 Massachusetts communities have been added to the list of those at “high risk” for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 23 – a list that includes New Bedford. The state’s designation is determining high-risk is when a town or city’s infection rate reaches 8 or more cases per 100,000 residents.

This, unfortunately, means placing a delay upon the ability of those communities to reach the next phase of re-opening which the state is planning on doing on Monday, October 5th.

The new communities are Attleboro, Avon, Boston, Dracut, Haverhill, Lowell, Lynnfield, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, and Springfield.

Both Governor Baker and Boston’s mayor Marty Walsh have stated that house parties, particularly among 20-something college students, is at the heart of the spike in coronavirus cases the state is experiencing. An astounding 50% of new positive test results are from people under 29-years of age.

Particularly alarming for Attleboro is that their recent spike includes 11 members of the Attleboro Fire Department, including one who is in serious condition.

On Wednesdays, Massachusett’s public health officials 510 additional new cases of the virus and 32 new deaths bringing the state’s total to 129,750 confirmed coronavirus cases with and 9,242 deaths.




President Trump and First Lady Test Positive for Covid-19

Earlier in the evening it was revealed that White House Aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for Covid-19 and was symptomatic. Given her close proximity to the President there had been rampant speculation that President Trump might be at risk for contracting the virus. In recent days she traveled with the President to and from rallies and was seen in the oval office as recently as Wednesday. On Twitter, moments ago President Trump announced the he indeed had tested positive as well as First Lady, Melania Trump. This is a developing story.




New Bedford increases from six to 10 diners per table at restaurants

Michael P. Norton
State House News Service

The city of New Bedford is embracing the governor’s new allowances for dining, which allow restaurants to seat parties of ten diners per table, up from the previous limit of six, and to use bar seating for dining as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.

“Unlike Boston, who will remain limited to a maximum of six diners per table due to the City’s recent uptick in cases, New Bedford will be complying with the update in protocol without any changes,” the New Bedford Economic Development Council wrote in an email Monday. “We recognize how hard small businesses and restaurants throughout the City have been hit by COVID-19 and encourage you to consider buying and dining local in order to help support our community, culture, and economy.”

New Bedford is in the state’s red category for COVID-19 risks, with an average daily incidence rate of 9.4 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, according to state data. The city’s positive test rate over the most recent 14-day period was 3.83 percent, a reduction from the previous weekly report.




OPINION: Ideas for Trick or Treating on the SouthCoast and enjoying Halloween during the pandemic

“I keep seeing all these posts about trick or treating. How about this year, we all make an effort to make this the best trick or treat these kids have seen?

Turn every porch light on. Give away extra candy. Sit in your driveway with a costume on. Decorate your house more. Play music. Be extra spooky. Buy the BIG candy bars. Go as far as to set up a drink station for adults (we like trick or treat too). Give away hot chocolate. Make every house a party!

Don’t get mad that there are kids from other neighborhoods showing up. (They may not live in an area that has trick or treat) And for Pete’s sake let the kids who may be older come and have something normal that they can enjoy.

So many of these kids are struggling for some normalcy in their lives just as much as the adults. This is the year to just LET THEM BE KIDS! This is such a small way we can help some kids feel like kids again!

Get the word out to your neighborhoods and let’s give these kids the best trick or treat EVER! ❤️❤️!”-Renee Moore.




New Bedford’s G & S Pizza announces re-opening of dining room

Back in August we announced that G&S Pizza owners Arthur and Fay had retired after 31 years. It is unclear whether their decision was sped up because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, but they did it in the middle of the heavy restrictions placed on many businesses, and restaurants were among some of the hardest hit.

Restaurants had their dining rooms closed back in mid-March at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and had to solely rely on take-out and/or delivery to survive. With Governor Baker’s phased approach to opening, restaurants were eventually allowed to be offer outdoor seating in Phase 2: Step 1. Many restaurants either expanded their outdoor venues or built one from scratch.

Phase 2: Step 2 followed almost 6 weeks later and allowed eateries to allow indoor seating with restrictions: maintaining a 6′ distance as per social distancing guidelines and wearing masks where that was not possible.

Sitting down in a restaurant is part of the foodie experience, a way to get out of the house, not having to clean up the mess, or simply wanting a different atmosphere. A sort of field trip for the family, a night on the town for a couple, or a change of pace for the bachelor. Of course, many “power” lunches for businesses and co-workers were part of that lifestyle.

Restaurants have been cautious about opening their restaurants in spite of Gov. Baker allowing them. Mirasol’s Cafe and Starbucks in Dartmouth have yet to open their indoor seating. Starbucks said “We don’t plan on opening the inside to sitting any time soon.” Mirasol’s said it would likely not open inside until spring as they had to address the lengthy serpentine lines that often wrap through the eatery or around the building. Their lines are long enough and with 6′ of social distancing between each patron the tail end of the line would likely end somewhere on Faunce Corner Road.

Joining the ranks of restaurants announcing that they are offering indoor seating is G&S Pizza. A Facebook post stated:

“We are so excited to let everyone know that dining room is now open!!!! Please stop by and visit us for some delicious food thank you.”

Rejoice pizza lovers!

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