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New Bedford mayor hopeful the city will get back on track as state reopens

SE Mass

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The state of Massachusetts has begun to gradually reopen, and New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell recently outlined how the state’s plan is being applied in the city.

Mitchell said the city will be following the guidelines set forth by Gov. Charlie Baker, with only a few exceptions. He called Baker’s plan “a sound one” but added, “the reality is that not every region of the state is experiencing the disease in the same way.”

Mitchell said since New Bedford has already seen community spread of COVID-19 in industrial facilities located within the city, they will continue to enforce the protocols and procedures that were put into place in early May.

The order, enacted on May 6, establishes hygiene, social distancing and employee screening requirements, as well as reporting mandates that are stricter than the state’s new directive for manufacturing facilities.

“Here in New Bedford, we are adopting additional, reasonable precautions given that, unlike the rest of the state, we have yet to see a consistent decline in new cases,” Mitchell said.

The city plans to follow the state’s guidelines in regards to churches, large gatherings, construction, hair salons and barbershops, car washes, boating, private offices, retail, auto dealers, city offices and libraries.

Beaches will open on May 25, but Mitchell said only residents will be allowed and parking passes will be required. Buttonwood Park Zoo plans to reopen May 30 and will be on an adjusted schedule with regular business hours from Wednesday through Sunday only.

Mitchell also addressed the cancelation of the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, which isn’t happening in the Whaling City for the first time since 1905.

“That’s exactly the type of large event, even though it’s outdoors, that we have to avoid,” Mitchell said. “We understand it to be one of the largest ethnic festivals in the country, certainly the largest in New England, so it’s a real source of pride for this city.”

Missing out on the celebration hits home for New Bedford residents with Portuguese heritage, including Naomi Brown.

“It’s certainly something I would want to attend, learn about my culture, food, friendships and just a good time,” she said. “It’s sad to me.”

“That’s a lot of history to leave behind in a way, 105 years is a long time, and it goes with the history of this [city],” resident Nicole Tangney added.

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