Good afternoon Fitchburg,
Mr. Rogers famously once said that during a time of crisis, ‘Always look for the helpers.” “If you look for the helpers, you know there is hope.” Today Governor Baker and my office issued a proclamation, “School Lunch Hero Day,” recognizing School Nutrition Professionals who have selflessly gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure our students continue to have access to meals, adapting and transforming citywide meal distribution, and maintaining meals for all children under the age of 18. Currently our School Nutrition Professionals are serving approximately 6,000 meals a week, and ensure additional meals are provided on Fridays for children to take home over the weekends. This sense of community and selflessness helps so many in need, and I would like to thank you all for such great support.
On Tuesday, Governor Baker announced that he would be extending the essential services emergency order and the Stay At Home Advisory to May 18. He also announced the launch of a Reopening Advisory Board to help develop a plan to reestablish the Commonwealth’s economy. 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 18, 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.
Last Friday, the City’s Emergency Business Grant Program completed its final funding round, and disbursements of checks were issued to local businesses. I am proud to report that 41 Fitchburg businesses were supported during this time, providing critical funds to help meet rent, utility, and related expenses. Over the course of the next month, the City’s Community Development Department will be working on replenishing this account with additional funding. On May 19, City Council will be entertaining an order to repurpose CDBG funding to the Business Grant Program. Furthermore, as part of the CARES Act, a portion of the additional CDBG Funding received will be utilized as well. Community Development will first focus on supporting those businesses on the grant waiting list, and then will be conducting outreach to the business community on remaining funding.
On May 12, I will be joining The North Central Chamber of Commerce in their second series with the City of Fitchburg to discuss the City’s response, business community needs, and have relevant conversations about opening our economy. Working with our City Council President, Michael Kushmerek, the Chamber, business leaders, and City Departments reopening our economy this will be a multilayered approach. I look forward to understanding and implementing the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board recommendations as they develop strategies, phases, and safety standards over the coming weeks.
As of 1pm today, there are a total of 250 positive COVID-19 cases in Fitchburg, of which 97 are now recovered. The Commonwealth’s Mobile Testing program, a partnership between the Department of Public Health, the National Guard, and the Broad Institute has improved access to testing for nursing homes, rest homes, and assisted living facilities. Our Health Department continues to work with the mobile testing program as they set up testing at Fitchburg facilities. Furthermore, the Nursing Home Family Resource Line, has become available. This resource line connects family members of nursing home and rest home residents with the information and resources they need during the COVID-19 outbreak. The line is staffed from 9 AM – 5 PM, seven days a week, and will coordinate across state agencies to help callers find answers to their questions. Families and community members can call the line at (617) 660-5399. Lastly, our Health Director has assigned a public nurse to interview each nursing home facility in Fitchburg to help understand their operating procedures and overall facility operations.
May First is important day for us, as today marks the beginning of Mental Health Month. During a time of uncertainty it is important for all of us to be aware of our personal mental health. We must recognize that it is okay for us to feel the stresses of life and the anxiety that results from that. COVID-19 has affected our daily lives, and as a result effected both our physical and mental health. The worries of economic security, fear of the virus, and depression from loneliness are all real feelings that each and every one of us have dealt with, to some degree, over the past several weeks. We all have different coping mechanisms. However, one thing is for certain, you are not alone. I cannot stress the importance how a single phone call, text, Skype or facetime gathering can have on those that we love and the mental health improvements it has on us individually. Through the power of conversation, physical exercise, and virtual gatherings, we can get through this together. Please remember, if you need someone to talk to, the Commonwealth has established the Call 2 Talk hotline, staffed with people who are there to listen. You can call 508-532-2255 or text C2T to 741741.
Having proper personal protection equipment (PPE) has been crucial to help serve our constituents. On Friday last week, MEMA provided our Fire and Police Departments with additional PPE. Also, through the efforts of our Procurement Department, the City has been proactive in searching for vendors and suppliers to procure PPE and sanitation supplies. These materials are crucial to have on hand so that the City may continue providing essential services. I am happy to report that the City has slowly been receiving supplies, and are realizing the benefits of our proactive measures.
Stitched together. Armed with sewing machines, fabric, and elastic bands, Maureen McSheehy, Marisa Fleming, Nancy Karis, Betty Reid, and Lyn Bourque all have been actively sewing 50 masks a day, and collectively made nearly 1,000 masks which have been donated to various organizations. I would like to thank these special women for their efforts, and all those who have been stepping up to provide help and hope throughout our community.
Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale