New Bedford establishes waterfront vaccination center for essential seafood industry workers

Mayor Jon Mitchell, joined by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Bill Keating, and members of the City Council and state legislative delegation, announced today that the City of New Bedford has established a waterfront vaccination center to vaccinate essential seafood industry workers.

The site is located at the former Environmental Protection Agency’s Dewatering Facility on the waterfront, recently turned over to the New Bedford Port Authority by the EPA. It will launch in the coming weeks with additional vaccine supply and through a partnership with the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center.

New Bedford has implemented protections for essential workers since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, Mayor Mitchell announced that the City would offer a free mask, produced at Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Corp. in New Bedford’s North End, to any city resident who wanted one.

On May 6, 2020, Mayor Mitchell and the Board of Health announced strong workplace safety standards, including a special industrial workplace order, ensuring stringent health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among essential workers in the seafood processing industry.

The waterfront vaccination center will be operated as a partnership between the City and the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center, which will staff the vaccination site. The Greater New Bedford Community Health Center recently received an award of nearly $4 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) as part of the American Rescue Plan to support its work, including direct receipt of vaccine, which makes possible the operation of this site.

“New Bedford’s essential seafood processing workforce plays a vital role in feeding the United States and distributing seafood from America’s top commercial fishing port. It is critical that we continue to do everything we can to keep essential workers safe and support the equitable distribution of vaccines,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell. “I am grateful to Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and Congressman Keating for their advocacy in securing these critical funds for New Bedford, which the Community Health Center, under the leadership of Cheryl Bartlett, will use to protect our residents and our essential workers.”

The site is expected to open in early April and to handle at least 125 vaccinations per hour, with the ability to vaccinate up to 800 to 1,000 people per day. Further details about hours of operation and signup steps will be announced ahead of the center’s opening in collaboration with the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center. Through coordination with employers, essential seafood industry workers will be scheduled for their COVID-19 vaccinations at the site. It is located on the New Bedford waterfront in close proximity to many of the city’s seafood processing facilities.

New Bedford NAACP urges faster action on COVID-19 vaccination

In a statement released today, The New Bedford Branch of the NAACP is calling on elected officials and area residents to accelerate efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

New Bedford continues to report among the highest total number of infected individuals in the Commonwealth, at over 12,000 each. Yet, the number of vaccines arriving in our city is woefully inadequate: only 600 vaccines are provided each week, according to the city’s health department for a population of almost 100,000. The city is classified as in the red – highest risk – zone.

Additionally, people of color are being vaccinated at a slower pace than others. The result is that, while the percentage of coronavirus cases in the white community is a smaller number to the overall population, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians suffered infection disproportionately, with rates much higher than their proportion of the population.

Acknowledging that people of color are scheduling vaccine shots at a much lower rate than the overall population due to suspicions about the safety of the inoculations, NB NAACP urges better outreach to those communities. Additionally, public vaccination sites are sometimes difficult for residents to reach, especially those of low income. Shots should be available wherever residents regularly receive healthcare, from providers they know.

In addition to making vaccinations more accessible, involving trusted providers would help to significantly reduce the skepticism that helps lead to low vaccination rates.

Renee Ledbetter, Vice President of the New Bedford Branch said, “This is a matter of life and death. We have to be sure to do our part to stem this deadly disease. The end is in sight, but will remain out of reach if strong action isn’t taken by the Commonwealth and residents immediately.”

She continued, “We call on our elected officials and the Governor to speed the number of vaccinations available, to make them more accessible to the public, and to make increased efforts in communities of color to educate the public and urge residents to vaccinate.”

Bristol County Savings Bank grants $100,000 to nine New Bedford, Fall River and R.I. non-profits impacted by COVID-19

Bristol County Savings Bank, utilizing funding obtained through Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLBank) Boston’s Jobs for New England Recovery Grant Program, has awarded a total of $100,000 to nine non-profit organizations within the communities the Bank serves that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

As an FHLBank Boston member institution, Bristol County Savings Bank was allowed to submit an online application and provide a list of targeted grantees to access up to $100,00 in grant funds for community-based non-profit organizations from the New England Recovery Grant Program. Funds could be used for working capital purposes, including payroll, required COVID-19 related expenditures, debt service, utilities and inventory. The Bank was required to certify that each non-profit had been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Though the Jobs for New England Recovery Program and Bristol County Savings Bank, the non-profits that received grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 are: Taunton Area – Taunton Business Improvement District made through its partner organization Downtown Taunton Foundation; Attleboro Area – New Hope, Inc. and Southeastern Massachusetts Arts Collaborative-SMARTS; Fall River Area – Children’s Museum of Fall River, Narrows Center for the Arts and Southeastern Massachusetts SER-Jobs for Progress; New Bedford Area – Boys & Girls Club of Greater New Bedford and Immigrants’ Assistance Center; and Rhode Island – Pawtucket Central Falls Development.

“Thanks to FHLBank Boston and its Jobs for New England Recovery Grant Program, we continue to address the multiple repercussions of the pandemic in our community and be there for our local non-profit partners when they need us most,” said Pat Murray, President and CEO of Bristol County Savings Bank.

Acushnet Fire Chief Gallagher pleased with town’s “dramatic improvement” with COVID cases


“Last week, we tested 101 individuals for Covid 19. Only one positive case was reported by the lab! From where we were just a few weeks ago, this is a dramatic improvement.

“As a hockey Dad I can not count the times we started celebrating a win too early. My son’s coach would tell the team the game isn’t over until after the final horn sounds.

“That is wise advice as we continue to fight this virus. Numbers are improving but can spike quickly. It is up to each and every one of us to play through the final horn. Keep your mask on, keep social distanced, keep doing all those things that resulted in just one Acushnet resident getting “the” phone call this weekend.”-Kevin.

Massachusetts Officials announce first case of P.1 COVID-19 variant; urge continued protective measures

The Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced that the first case of the P.1 COVID-19 variant of concern, which originated in Brazil, has been detected in Massachusetts. The individual is a woman in her 30s who resides in Barnstable County.

DPH was notified of her test results from genetic sequencing conducted through the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national surveillance system. Currently, there is no information available on the woman’s illness or whether she has recently traveled. She tested positive for COVID-19 in late February.

As of today, there have been 213 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, originally found in the United Kingdom, and 6 cases of the B.1.351, which originated in South Africa, reported in Massachusetts. The B.1.1.7 variant is known to spread more easily and has caused a rapid surge of cases in the UK, several other countries, and parts of the United States.
The best defense against variants of concern is to prevent the spread of COVID.
This includes wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding groups, staying home when you are sick, getting tested if you have symptoms or are identified as a close contact of someone with COVID, and getting vaccinated when it is your turn.
Learn more about variants of concern at New Variants of the Virus that Causes COVID-19 | CDC and track their presence in both Massachusetts and the US at US COVID-19 Cases Caused by Variants | CDC.

New Bedford’s 25th annual “Day Of Portugal” canceled due to COVID-19

The popular “Day Of Portugal” celebration has been delighting locals for well over two decades. Last year at this time organizers canceled the celebration and most of us at that time thought that COVID would pass in a few weeks or months.

Unfortunately, the Day Of Portugal, or as some colloquially call “The Mini-Feast,” has been canceled for a second year in the best interest of “..safety and well-being of the population as well as the restrictions imposed by the authorities,” according to Dulce Matos, president of the New Bedford Day of Portugal Committee.

“Given the continuing situation we are all experiencing due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I regret to have to inform you that the Day of Portugal celebrations in New Bedford, scheduled for June 11, 12, and 13, 2021, are canceled.”

Certainly not news anyone wanted to hear, especially considering that the larger Feast of the Blessed Sacrament has not made an official statement on whether there will be a “Feast” this year. A year after COVID first reared its head, most of us were looking for some normalcy after months of lockdowns, stay-at-home advisories, social distancing, and having healthy interactions with others rescheduled or canceled altogether.

Every June tens of thousands of people from the South Coast and beyond eagerly look forward to the “Day Of Portugal” celebration, a chance to soak in Portuguese history, music, culture, and of course, cuisine. Alas, we’ll all have to wait until next in when Matos hopes the event “…will return stronger than ever in 2022.”

Assuming we are not in a lockdown because of COVID-20.

Baker spars with teachers union over vaccine access

By Matt Murphy
State House News Service

In an escalating battle over vaccinations and a full-time return to the classroom, Gov. Charlie Baker and the state’s largest teachers’ unions butted heads Thursday over the unions’ request to allow teachers to be vaccinated in schools, with the administration refusing to divert doses away from mass vaccination sites and other clinics.

A war-of-words erupted after a morning meeting between union officials, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and Education Commissioner Jeff Riley to discuss vaccinations.

A day earlier, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy had said the state’s vaccine rollout for teachers had been “poorly timed” with plans to bring elementary students back to the classroom full-time by April 5, followed by middle schoolers on April 28.

The meeting led to a searing condemnation from the administration of the union’s request for doses to be redistributed and administered to teachers and staff locally at schools.

“I am not going to be in a position where I take vaccine away from people who are extremely vulnerable, have multiple medical conditions and are over the age of 65 to give it to a targeted population. We’re just not going to play that game,” Baker said at an afternoon press conference.

The comments from the governor came after the governor’s senior advisor Tim Buckley issued a statement saying the administration “implores the unions to do the math,” noting the state receives just 150,000 new first doses a week.

“Diverting hundreds of thousands of vaccines to an exclusive, teacher-only distribution system would deny the most vulnerable and the most disproportionately impacted residents hundreds of thousands of vaccines,” Buckley said.

The unions, including the MTA, the American Federation of Teachers and the Boston Teachers Union, accused the administration of “pitting one vulnerable group against another” after what it described as a “cordial” meeting with Sudders.

“The administration’s mischaracterization of educators as somehow seeking to take vaccines away from the sick and elderly is untrue and defamatory,” said Najimy, AFT-Massachusetts President Beth Kontos, and BTU President Jessica Tang.

The three union leaders said they suggested using doses that had already been designated for teachers at mass vaccination sites and instead deploying them at schools where they could be administered to teachers by firefighters and nurses with minimal disruption to the school schedule.

“The administration is entitled to its opinion on how it has handled the vaccine rollout, but the administration is not entitled to their own facts. From the onset, our unions have advocated for classifying educators as essential workers and for vaccinating them at the same time as others who are eligible within the current phase of the rollout,” Najimy, Kontos and Tang said.

Baker saw the request from the unions differently.

“They were looking for their own vaccine and to not participate in the process that everyone else participates in,” Baker said.

Baker only opened the state’s vaccination program to teachers on Thursday after the White House last week urged states to begin vaccinating educators in March and began making doses available to teachers through the federal pharmacy vaccine program.

The administration then announced on Wednesday that it would set aside four weekend days in late March and early April at the state’s seven mass vaccinations when teachers exclusively could book vaccine appointments. The governor also said he was encouraging regional vaccine collaboratives to also specify days for educators.

Baker and Sudders both cited vaccine supply constraints as limiting their ability to set aside more vaccines.

“We don’t have more doses to give,” Sudders said Wednesday. She estimates teachers unable to book an appointment on Thursday through the normal system will have access to about 20,000 to 25,000 doses at mass vaccination sites on March 27, April 3, April 10 and April 11.

The administration noted that 95 percent of teachers are under the age of 65, putting them at reduced risk from COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control has said vaccinations are not a prerequiste for a return to in-person learning, and Baker said experience in Massachusetts has shown that students, particularly young students, can be taught safely in a classroom.

“Building an entirely new, exclusive, teacher-only, school by school distribution system would make Massachusetts’ vaccination system slower, less equitable and far more complicated,” Buckley said.

Baker also defended his reliance on mass vaccination sites to distribute vaccine, saying most states were using similar sites, provider organizations, pharmacy chains and community health centers to administer COVID-19 vaccinations.

“The process we’re pursuing in Massachusetts is completely consistent with the process that’s being used in virtually every other state in the county. Why? Because it’s effective, it’s efficient and it gets a lot of shots in people arms in a short period of time,” Baker said.

House Speaker Ron Mariano, who is a former teacher himself, was an early advocate for giving teachers higher priority status for vaccinations.

Asked about the back-and-forth Thursday between the governor and the unions, Mariano said the governor invited it.

“It’s a problem that was created by the administration in setting a date certain to have schools reopen and raising the issue of safety in our schools and not having a plan on how to make sure that they can guarantee that the schools are safe,” he said.

Massachusetts education officials will force districts to bring students back into the classroom next month

As posted on the the MA DOE Website:

News from Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley & the
MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Guidance on In-Person Learning Requirements

Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Leaders of Collaboratives,

On March 5, 2021, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted amendments to the Student Learning Time regulations on an emergency basis. These amendments provide me with the authority to determine when hybrid and remote models will no longer count toward meeting the required student learning time hours. 603 CMR 27.08(2)(d). Consistent with these amendments, and following consultation with medical experts and state health officials, I am exercising that authority as follows:

Elementary school phase (grades K-5): For elementary schools, hybrid and remote learning models will no longer count towards meeting the required student learning time hours as of Monday, April 5, 2021. As a result, districts and schools are required to shift their learning model for elementary school grade levels to full-time, in-person instruction five days per week effective Monday, April 5, 2021.

Middle school phase (grades 6-8): For middle schools, hybrid and remote learning models will no longer count towards meeting the required student learning time hours as of Wednesday, April 28, 2021. As a result, districts and schools will be required to shift their learning model for middle school grade levels to full-time, in-person instruction five days per week, effective Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

High school phase (grades 9-12): We will announce the details and timing of the high school phase of the plan in April. Districts will be provided with at least two weeks in advance of the date for high school students to return to full-time, in-person instruction, but should start making such plans now.

Importantly, families will retain the choice as to whether to send their children to school in-person or have them learn remotely through the end of the school year. Districts may also apply for a waiver from DESE. Waivers will be considered in a limited set of circumstances described later in this document.

These regulations are legally binding. Any district that does not comply with the regulatory requirements or receive a waiver by April 5, 2021 (for the elementary school phase of the plan) will be required to make up any missed structured learning time. This time could be made up during this school year, over the summer, or into next school year if necessary. In addition, G.L. c. 71, § 4A links Chapter 70 funds to structured learning time.

Dartmouth Police Department announces milestone: 4,000 COVID vaccinations in town

“Congratulations to Dartmouth Board of Health Director, Chris Michaud, as well as to all of the other workers and volunteers, who made our final vaccination clinic such a GIANT success yesterday at Dartmouth High School.

As a result of their collective efforts over the last couple of months, nearly 4,000 individuals were successfully vaccinated at the numerous town of Dartmouth clinics 👏🏻.

Though we realize they are all busy, sadly, no state officials accepted the invitation to come and see just how important it is to keep these non-profit, locally run clinics up and running 😢.

Great job Dartmouth ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐”-Dartmouth Police Department.

Nursing home, senior living visitation allowed in New Bedford due to vaccination of residents

Mayor Jon Mitchell and the Board of Health have rescinded an earlier restriction on nursing home and senior living visits, due to the widespread vaccination of residents at those facilities.

On December 14, the Mayor and Board of Health prohibited visitation at nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and senior living facilities, with limited exceptions, to protect residents from the spread of COVID-19. An emergency order by the Mayor and Board of Health effective March 8 will now rescind that restriction and allow safe visitation, but continues to outline stringent public health protocols and reporting requirements to ensure the health and safety of all senior residents.

“Our goal during the surges in virus transmission was always to protect the most vulnerable among us until they had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Now that the initial phases of vaccinations of residents at nursing homes and senior living facilities have taken place, we can once again permit visitation with health and safety protocols so that families can visit their loved ones,” said Mayor Mitchell.

The state’s and City’s latest guidance allows for in-person visitation with social distancing, screening, mask-wearing, and other protective measures.

Last spring, Mayor Mitchell and the Board of Health first announced emergency orders to keep residents of all senior living settings safe through the requirement of stringent public health and sanitation requirements, and instituted limits on visitations in December to protect the health of senior residents.

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