Good afternoon Fitchburg,
Graduation; a culmination of years of learning, failures, successes, and friendship. Two weeks ago, I received a phone call from Dr. Richard Lapidus, President of Fitchburg State University. He reached out with an idea to help celebrate the graduating class of 2020. With Fitchburg States savvy printing and facilities crews, six congratulatory signs were proudly raised this week on Main Street for the Class of 2020. I encourage all of our graduating classes, to drive to the corner of Main and Putnam Streets, take a picture with your class sign and post it on social media! A special thank you to Fitchburg State for your creative idea and to the Straight Family for their partnership in erecting the signs.
On Monday, Governor Baker announced a four-phase approach to reopening the Massachusetts economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and published Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards that will apply across all sectors and industries once reopening begins. The goal of the phased reopening, based on public health guidance, is to methodically allow certain businesses, services, and activities to resume, while protecting public health and limiting a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases. During this time, Fitchburg municipal buildings will continue to operate with current essential staffing levels. I have been in discussion with Human Resources and the Health Department, and together, we are working on a plan to bring municipal operations to a new normal. This will take some time and guidance from the state. I would expect this to be a few weeks before we have any definitive answers.
As I have mentioned in my previous press releases over the course of the past several weeks, the City’s Health Director has been working with our long term care facilities, the Department of Public Health, the National Guard, and the Commonwealth’s COVID Mobile Testing Program. In coordination with our Board of Health, some long term care facilities implemented a second round of testing. This week, residents will see a rise in our positive COVID-19 test numbers. This rise is the result of many weeks’ worth of coordination and providing access to testing. As of 12:00 pm today, there have been a total of 556 positive COVID-19 cases in Fitchburg, of which 173 are now recovered.
Although this increase in positive cases may appear concerning at first, the City should be encouraged that we are now able to identify, isolate, and track these positive cases. Furthermore, we discovered that several of these cases were asymptomatic. Asymptomatic cases are the most important cases to identify, as they are showing no physical signs of symptoms and therefore could cause a larger spread of the virus. The Health Department has been in constant contact with DPH, and are working with these long term care facilities on infection control. Once again, I would like to recognize the efforts of our Health Director, the Board of Health, and all our public nurses who have been leading this charge. Also, launched this week, the Commonwealth has established a Long Term Care Facility Staffing Team portal. This portal provides job opportunities for healthcare professionals, health care students, non-clinical job seekers, and volunteers to help make a difference in the effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please visit www.mass.gov for more information.
Yesterday, Governor Baker announced that his administration would do everything it could to make sure cities and towns were in "decent shape" financially next year, but could offer no reassurances that local aid from the state would not be affected by the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19. Traditionally, my office and the City’s Finance Team would be submitting the FY21 budget to the City Council, today.
Working in coordination with the Council President, the Finance Team, and Department Heads, we have been actively assembling the FY21 budget. With the current state of COVID-19, the Finance Team is looking at and adjusting how this will impact both the FY20 and FY21 budgets. At this time the State has not yet provided guidance on local aid, and has shown possible signs of extending municipal budget deadlines beyond June 30th. We will be reviewing these impacts as we await pending guidance from the state. For these reasons, we will not be submitting our FY21 budget on May 15, 2020. Over the course of the next few weeks, my office will work with the Council President and the Clerk’s Office to establish a budget schedule and submittal to the City Council.
On Tuesday, the City’s Executive Director of Community Development, Economic Development Director, and myself joined 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 relevant conversations about opening our economy. Part of our conversations included how the City will be spending down the recent $586,000 federal CDBG-CV funding, the City received a few weeks ago. With the assistance of our Community Development Team, money orders were sent to the City Council for their comment and approval at their next Council meeting. Spending was broken down into the following categories; small business assistance, rental/mortgage/utility assistance, health and services, purchase of PPE, homelessness services, food insecurity assistance, and grant administration. More information on how to apply for these funding opportunities will be available in the near future.
Fitchburg Fire Department’s Emergency Management Team and our Police Department were able to hand out over 3,000 masks this week to the public. In fact we were so successful, the distribution scheduled needed to be rearranged to ensure supplies were made available to everyone. Please note that mask distribution will resume on Monday, May 18 and Tuesday, May 19, from 9:00am to 3:00pm at Fitchburg Municipal Offices, 166 Boulder Drive. Please locate the drive-up distribution tent to receive your masks.
Led by blue lights and the chilling silence of reflection, the Fitchburg Police Department’s men and women march in formation to honor, remember, and pay homage to law enforcement officers who have made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. This Sunday, we traditionally would gather at the Fitchburg Police Memorial to pay a special tribute to those who have sacrificed so much in the name of public safety. Although we are not able to gather as a community this year, I ask that we all take a moment of silence and reflect on all the sacrifices our officers and their families make every day to preserve our quality of life. I would like to recognize Chief Martineau for his dedicated leadership, and the commitment his officers have for our community. Thank you all for your courage and heroic actions. I would also like to thank the Chief, the Police Department, and FATV, as they are actively creating a virtual Police Memorial Program, to be aired shortly on public television. Please stay tuned for details.
Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale