At least 39 COVID cases linked to event at New Bedford venue

SE Mass

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The owners of a restaurant and entertainment venue in New Bedford have implemented changes in response to a growing cluster of COVID-19 cases linked an event there earlier this month.

As of Thursday, the New Bedford Health Department said 39 cases have been confirmed among patrons who attended an event at The Vault on July 10, according to information from state contact tracers.

Six close contacts of attendees also tested positive, bringing the total number of cases associated with the outbreak to 45, the city said.

Howie Mallowes, one of The Vault’s owners, tells 12 News about 300 people attended an event featuring a local DJ at the venue, which operates as a restaurant and pub during the day. Mallowes said they were alerted to the outbreak by contact tracers on July 20.

Of the 39 individuals who tested positive, 34 were not vaccinated.

“The Health Department continues to strongly urge the importance of getting vaccinated, which can protect against serious illness and hospitalization,” a spokesperson for the city said in a statement to 12 News. “It is the most effective tool we have to prevent illness and keep our residents safe, and vaccines are easier and more convenient than ever to receive in locations across the city.”

Mallowes said signs have been posted at The Vault suggesting that patrons be vaccinated, and if they’re not, that they wear a mask, but the venue cannot legally force people to do so.

“The city’s public health guidance at this time is to heed the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control, which includes wearing masks at large indoor gatherings,” the city spokesperson’s statement continued. “Residents who are not vaccinated are strongly urged to avoid gathering in unmasked settings and to be vaccinated. This case is illustrative of the effectiveness of the vaccine, as nearly 90% of those infected were not vaccinated to protect themselves against contracting COVID-19.”

The Vault has a capacity of 425, according to Mallowes, but as of last week the owners decided to cut that back to 200.

Mallowes said they’ve been asking for people’s phone numbers as part of the venue’s own contact tracing efforts. They’re also continuing to follow other protocols that have been in place throughout the pandemic, like enhanced cleaning and sanitization.

“We do need to operate as a business,” Mallowes said. “It’s been a tough year and a half, and we’re just trying to operate in a way that we’re allowed, but still keep it safe.”

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