Mayor Donna D. Holaday
November 5, 2020
Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for listening in on this latest COVID-1 9 update. Last week we were designated a Red High Risk Community, and as of today still remain in this category. To date, there have been 196 positive cases in Newburyport, we have 23 current active cases, and have lost 8 residents to the virus. I am asking all of us to do our part to get us out of the Red Zone. We need to do better to protect our families, our neighbors, our first responders, our health workers, our businesses, our teachers.
Since we’ve seen a significant rise in cases in the last month, we think it will be useful to review the process and protocols our local officials in the Health Department follow when issuing isolation and quarantine guidelines to residents who’ve tested positive, and when conducting contact tracing.
Whenever a resident tests positive for COVID-19, the state notifies the Newburyport Health Department through the MAVEN Public Health Surveillance system. A Board of Health Official will then immediately reach out to the infected resident to confirm that they and their household are under quarantine and home isolation for a period of 14 days. They will then conduct contact tracing to determine when and where the individual may have contracted the virus, as well as determine whether others may have been in close contact with the individual since becoming infected. Our Health Department team will also periodically check in on households with positive cases to monitor their quarantine as well as reach out to the household when it’s safe to break quarantine.
If you or someone in your household tests positive for COVID-19, we do ask that you proactively reach out to our Health Department to begin the quarantine and contact tracing process. The sooner we begin this process, the more effective our team will be in limiting additional exposure within the community. Furthermore, please be honest and forthright with our contact tracers. As per Governor Baker’s Executive Order, event hosts or venues will be contacted in the case a participant has tested positive, and we urge all to please follow the rules and provide our Health Department with the necessary information.
We will get through this rise in cases and prevent further spread if we all follow the rules and guidelines and cooperate with our local health officials.
Also, with the increase in recent cases, we have received many inquiries from concerned residents wanting information on the active cases in our community, including locations. By law, we cannot and will not share this type of information to the public. Furthermore, by the time an active case is reported, the individual and their family members are already in isolation and under quarantine, and contact tracing is well underway. What we can tell all concerned residents is that the virus is not in just one neighborhood or one sector, but all around us. Currently our Health Department has not determined a trend in our active cases as far as a specific sector. We can say that many cases are occurring through family contact within the household. Either parents or their children are becoming infected and bringing it home. That is why we all need to make good decisions when we’re out in the world. Please avoid large gatherings, and always wear a mask.
For families with school age children, please make good decisions, including avoiding sports or activities that put our children at high risk, particularly those that require out of town or even out of state travel. Our school leadership has been closely monitoring COVID-19 cases within the schools and greater Newburyport communities. They are working tirelessly to make our schools as safe as possible for our children. We know that having children attend school in person is how they learn best. As of now, the school district will maintain it’s current “hybrid” learning plan despite the city’s “high-risk” status. With the cases we have seen in the district, we haven’t seen an in-school spread, further validating that our health and safety protocols are protecting the school community. This past Monday, we increased in person learning opportunities for high school students. Our Board of Health and school nurses are working closely together whenever there are confirmed cases of students or staff. The school nurses have full authority to conduct contact tracing within the schools and community, and it’s important that everyone cooperates with our nurses and local public health officials if they are contacted by them during contact tracing.
We are confident that the current community increase in COVID-19 is not dramatically impacting the safety within the schools.
Having said all this, it is important to note that if school COVID-19 cases begin to rise in the coming weeks, we may be faced with returning to a remote model of learning.
We remain committed to the well-being of our retail, restaurants and small businesses within Newburyport during this economic crisis. I am asking all of us to do our part to get us out of the red “high risk” category. Please abide by the Governor’s recent order to stay at home between 10 PM and 5 AM. The goal is to stem the rise in cases and keep us from having to revert back to a Phase 1 or Phase 2 of the state’s reopening, which would greatly hinder our business community. They need our help, and we must continue to be vigilant despite our pandemic fatigue. Please shop locally and follow all safety protocols, especially wearing a mask. Working together we can get our numbers back down.
We are still accepting grants applications for $10,000 grants to income qualified small businesses; applications will continue to be accepted until the grant money is dispersed. We have also partnered with Pettengill House for those residents needing rental assistance. For grant information, please visit the city website and go to the “Small Business Relief Grants Now Available”.
For assistance with the rental program, contact Pettengill House at 978-463-8801, or go to their website at www.pettingillhouse.org. The City’s website also has additional information on the new State programs to assist businesses.
This week’s election took place in the midst of a pandemic, with our country facing many important and complex issues. As in many elections, the issues can feel polarizing and results may be disappointing to some and exciting to others. No matter the result, it is important for us as a community to remain united together. Regarding the latest news surrounding related to post-election ballot counting – the City of Newburyport will be counting the ballots returned by mail that were postmarked by November 3rd until 5:00 PM tomorrow, Friday November 6th. All other voting activities have been concluded; thank you to all who voted in this unprecedented election with over 82 percent of our citizens exercising their right to vote.
I would like to thank everyone who participated in trick-or-treating on Halloween for acting responsibly and for following the state and CDC guidelines, in addition to taking the necessary precautions that were discussed for weeks in preparation of this tradition.
I know our customary Halloween celebrations would have typically been in-person and spread across the city, but this year our families were still fun and creative while ensuring everyone’s safety. This says a lot about our community, again thank you!
We appreciate your patience and cooperation with the closure of City Hall to the public these last months. We were planning to reopen City Hall to the public next Monday November 9, but unfortunately given our current red status, we will for the time being continue to conduct business online, by mail, by phone and by appointment. We had also planned for a limited opening of the Senior Community Center, but will also need to postpone this until further notice. I’m sure folks are disappointed, but this is the right thing to do at this time. The library continues to be open for browsing and limited building access.
Please be advised that our Assessor’s office will continue their state mandated inspections of all properties in the city over the next several months. We are working with the firm KRT Appraisal to perform the site inspections. Doug Rollins will be the KRT Data Collector.
Residents will receive a yellow notification card when their property is due for an inspection. Thank you for your cooperation.
The City’s curbside bagged leaf collection will take place on Saturdays: this coming Saturday November 7, November 21, and December 5. Residents must place leaves in brown paper leaf bags or in marked barrels. Please fold over the tops of the bags to minimize the amount of leaves spilling out. Bags must be curbside by 6:00 AM and contain only leaves or pumpkins. Please note – bags containing branches, plants, dirt, rocks or trash will be left behind.
Every winter, people across the region pull out their shovels and stock up on salt in anticipation of the coming storms. Generally, residents are very responsible in complying with the City Ordinance to clear their sidewalks. Snow on sidewalks is a potential hazard to those with limited mobility as well as children at school bus stops. It also makes it difficult for those who deliver services to our community, including mail carriers, meter readers, delivery services, and emergency services. However, there are a number of people who simply can’t remove snow and ice on their own.
That’s where Snow Angels comes in, a joint venture between Newburyport Youth Services and the Newburyport Council on Aging. The program is a voluntary snow removal service for senior citizens and persons with physical disabilities. The goal is to help bring together residents who want to keep their sidewalks clear, but are physically unable to do so, with volunteers who want to help out their community. This program will run from December 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021.
We also have our Hydrant Heroes program where kids in town are encouraged to shovel out a fire hydrant to help out our firefighters. Kids, Teens, Families, Teams, Scouting Troops, Clubs and individuals can get involved and help others! Please spread the word. For more information, please go to the Newburyport Youth Services webpage or you can call (978) 465-4434.
Next week we honor and celebrate Veterans Day for the men and woman in our community who have served in the military. Normally on Veterans Day in Newburyport, we would have a brisk parade down Green Street with the Fire and Police cars leading the way, and the Newburyport Marching Band providing the beat. We would stand together outside of City Hall for a Veteran’s Day commemoration. Though we can’t be physically together, we still plan to honor those veterans who have departed in the last six months with a video broadcast. We will hear the Armed Forces Medley and share some video of our Scouts at memorials playing TAPS. Please tune into NCM Hub on Veterans Day where the broadcast will be shown throughout the day.
On a fun note, Newburyport is home to a new family holiday movie that will air on UPtv, a basic cable station available on Comcast starting this month. Newburyport was considered an ideal location for the making of the movie titled, “A Ring for Christmas”. Key scenes were shot in the city mostly at Market Square, the Masonic Temple, and the restaurant Brine, which became the 1950s-inspired Frank’s Diner. The production has expressed their thanks to the residents and officials of the city for our support and interest in the making of the movie. The film will premiere on Sunday, November 8 at 7:00 pm and be shown 30 times on this station between this day and Christmas
Lastly, although many of us are feeling “pandemic fatigue,” every action we take toward slowing the spread of the coronavirus will help get us to the finish line as we await new medicines and a vaccine.
Please abide by the state’s recent guidelines. It is particularly important that we consider our personal actions as we head into the Holiday season, more on that to come.
Thank you, and have a good evening.