Memorial Day, in its traditional sense, is a day where families and communities across the country come together to celebrate those Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice to this great nation. This Monday, however, there is a heightened sense of solidarity, as we must recognize those individuals virtually due to the current battle of stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Although Fitchburg’s cherished traditional gathering of our White Cross Ceremony, Memorial Day Parade and observance at the upper Common may have been canceled, it does not lesson our responsibility as grateful citizens to honor those who have died in military service to our country. With the assistance of FATV our Veterans Department has put together a virtual ceremony that will be aired on Monday, at 10:30am on FATV. I hope you all will join me, virtually, commemorating our nation’s veterans.
Through the efforts of the Fitchburg Police Department, this week the City received nearly $90,000 from the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance in an effort to help battle the spread of COVID-19. This reimbursable grant will go towards needed supplies, cleaning services, and technology to assist the men and women who are fighting on the frontlines every day. I would like to thank Senator Ed Markey, Congresswoman Lori Trahan, the U.S. Department of Justice, our state and federal partners, and our Police Department for making these funds available to the city.
In addition, as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) includes funds for Massachusetts governments to use to pay costs incurred in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. Currently our City Auditor is working with City departments to understand, document, and request a reimbursement of funds for eligible costs that the City has incurred to address COVID-19 related needs in Fiscal Year 20. This approach is intended to get money out to municipalities quickly, and allow for adjustments over the coming months. Following this submission, we will be submitting for reimbursement for costs that will be incurred in Fiscal year 21.
As of 1:00 pm today, there have been a total of 653 positive COVID-19 cases in Fitchburg, of which 194 are now recovered. Furthermore, there are 48 deaths attributed to COVID-19. However, it must be noted that this number is the number of individuals who have died and were positive for the virus, but official death record numbers may vary as COVID-19 may not be the official cause of death. Our Health Director continues to work with DPH and our long term care facilities on infection control, PPE, and taking proactive measures to help stop the spread of the virus. I would like to remind our residents that the Montachusett Public Health Network Hotline is still available and can be reached at 844.968.3323.
We are finally experiencing terrific weather and have the urge to get outdoors! You can do so and still remain safe by utilizing social distancing and reduced gatherings, according to the Governors orders. Under these orders numerous events are not allowed, but there are certain situations that allow for safe assemblies. Please remember if you are organizing a drive-up worship or something similar, we encourage residents to contact the city and fill out a public assembly form at the Fire Dept with your plans. The city can assist with any of these occurrences and doing so may prevent a surprise visit and uncomfortable situation from our code enforcement or Police Department officials, who are charged with reducing gatherings and protecting public health.
On Monday, the Governor released Reopening Massachusetts, a report from the Reopening Advisory Board which details a four-phased strategy approach to responsibly reopen businesses and activities while continuing to fight COVID-19. In addition, the Baker Administration issued a “Safer At Home” advisory, which instructs residents to stay at home unless engaging with newly opened activities.
The goal of this phased reopening plan is to methodically allow businesses, services, and activities to resume, while avoiding a resurgence of COVID-19 that could overwhelm the state’s health care system and jeopardize the progress made thus far. Each phase will last a minimum of three weeks and could last longer before moving to the next phase, and success in earlier phases will define criteria for future phases. After speaking with several small business owners, I can certainly sympathize and understand the frustration and confusion if a particular business or activity was not included in phase one, and certainly the difficulty in learning the necessary steps of what it takes to reopen. Working with Community Development, the City is putting together guidance to assist businesses as much as we possibly can. We will have additional information in the coming week. In the meantime, I do encourage our businesses to visit www.mass.gov and visit the “Reopening Massachusetts” link for additional information.
I would like to pause, and take a moment to remind residents of an important way they could indirectly help fight the spread of COVID-19. Fitchburg is fortunate enough to be receiving federal reimbursements and other grants so that we can provide the proper supplies to our frontline workers, business assistance to our small private-sector companies, and shelter and outreach programming for those less fortunate. This funding, although may come from different pots of money, has one unique correlating factor. Most of this funding is dependent on our census numbers and demographic data collected from them. For this reason, I want to remind our Fitchburg residents of the importance of filling out and sending in their census. In addition to fighting COVID-19, census data is used to help fund our public schools, determining congressional seats, supplemental nutrition programs, community development block grant, and so much more. The stakes are high if we all do not take the time to fill out the census, we all could possibly lose funding for a full decade. Please, if you haven’t done so, complete your 2020 census. It’s quick and easy, and it is safe. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call my office.
As we move forward into the long weekend, let us remind ourselves to take a moment of silence on Memorial Day to honor our fallen soldiers, and may this observance represent a unifying way to commemorate our history and the struggle to protect our freedoms. Together, we must ensure that the sacrifices made by our nations finest and bravest never go unappreciated and that their memories are never forgotten.
Thank you and have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.
Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale