Mayor Donna D. Holaday
May 21, 2020 COVID-19 UPDATE
Good afternoon everyone and thank you for listening in on this latest COVID-19 update. As I am sure you know, Governor Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board’s report was announced last week and includes a Four- Phase reopening plan for Massachusetts – Start, Cautious, Vigilance and New Normal. Certain sectors of our local and state economies can now reopen once they comply with the state’s COVID-19 workplace safety standards. Detailed information on workplace safety standards, as well as information on what businesses and industries can reopen in each phase is available on the state website – https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-massachusetts with additional information being developed on our city website as new guidance from the State is released. This plan includes our economy and many other areas of community life, such as parks, beaches, libraries, summer school and other programs, recreation, child care, youth sports, and more.
While some businesses can now reopen under the state's four-phase reopening plan, no businesses are required to open. Phase 1 began this week and applies to construction and manufacturing sectors, as well as houses of worship. Next Monday, May 25th hair salons, barber shops, pet groomers, and car washes will be eligible to open, and retail will be eligible to conduct online and phone business for curbside pickup. Preventative services at doctors and dentist office can also open in Phase 1.
Beaches are reopening on Memorial Day, and this will include Plum Island; we will be opening the lot on Monday, May 25th. The Parker River Refuge remains accessible on foot, as the refuge works on a reopening plan in accordance with Federal guidelines. Additionally, residents can also obtain discount parking stickers for the Plum Island lot at the Harbormaster facility at 27 Rear Water Street beginning Thursday May 28th from 9am – 1pm seven days a week. Please bring your vehicle registration. Additionally, the boat launching facility at Cashman Park is open, and the central waterfront docks will be available beginning Monday, May 25th. The transient boater facility remains closed to public access but business will be conducted outside of the facility until further notice pending guidance from the state.
It is critical that all of us follow the guidelines and safety precautions established by each business and sector that reopens. First, and foremost, all must wear a mask or face covering.
A “safer stay at home” advisory was also issued as part of the state’s Four-phase plan. What does safer at home mean? All residents are advised to leave home only for healthcare, worship and permitted work, shopping, and outdoor activities. People over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions – who are at high risk for COVID-19 should stay home except for essential errands and to attend to healthcare needs.
At this phase, participation in close contact activities such as pick-up sports games continues to be prohibited. Use remote modes of communication like phone or video chat instead of visiting friends or family who are high risk for COVID-19. Visitation constitutes to be restricted at nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals and other residential care settings.
The key to moving from Phase 1 of the plan to the subsequent phases will be contingent upon seeing continued positive trends with the COVID -19 numbers. Each phase is estimated to last three weeks, but the state has been clear that if numbers aren’t moving in the right direction, phases could be longer, or we could even go back to an earlier phase. All residents are REQUIRED to cover their face when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public, and this will be the norm in all phases of the reopening. The city continues to have free masks available. They can be obtained at the Newburyport Senior/Community Center at 331 High Street from 9am – 1pm every weekday. Call 978-462-0430 to make arrangements for other pick up times.
To date, 65 Newburyport residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and sadly we have lost 2 residents. We have been very fortunate to have low numbers in comparison to other communities within Essex County. These numbers show that our shared efforts to slow the spread of the virus has been working. So, thank you, for your commitment to everyone’s health these past two months. We must continue to be vigilant as compliance will continue to keep our cases down and build confidence in the public to begin patronizing our businesses.
Playgrounds and athletic fields remain closed. The rail trail, boardwalk, other parks and open spaces remain open for walking, hiking, biking, and exercise. Dogs are still required to be on leash at all times. We expect some revised guidelines for these spaces in phases 2 and 3.
Last week I announced the cancellation of all large-scale events in Newburyport for the summer, and unfortunately do not foresee any changes based on the four-phased reopening plan. Smaller events that can run safely and comply with limitations to gatherings and social distancing will be considered by City officials and the Board of Health on a case-by-case basis. While summer events will not go on, we await more information and further guidance on the reminder of the calendar year.
We understand many families are waiting to hear whether we will be able to offer summer programming and camps this year. The state has included some basic outdoor education program and activities that can occur during Phase 1, but we anticipate more specific guidelines and requirements as part of Phases 2 and 3. We will be modifying programs to adapt to following all protocols and procedures to maintain safe activities. We are currently developing programs and offerings in accordance with CDC and state guidelines. We anticipate releasing more information on summer programming and camps shortly.
The Superintendent and his team at the School Department are awaiting state and city official guidance around the actual reopening of schools, and our #1 priority is keeping our staff and students safe. They are also in the process of creating a reopening task force, and are currently developing plans for summer learning programs and the next school year.
Our yard waste facility has been up and running for a few weeks, and we are pleased to let you know the recycling center will open soon; please check the city website for more information. We will also end the Low Street trash drop off for cardboard and trash effective tomorrow, Friday May 22nd.
Newburyport City Hall and other municipal buildings will remain closed to the public as we make preparations for the safety of our staff and the public when we do reopen. This requires installing plexiglass shields in offices with customer counters, procuring sufficient PPE’S, disinfectant, sanitizer and decisions on safe scheduling and access. Since the state prohibition against gatherings of more than ten people remains in effect, all city public meetings and hearings will continue to be conducted remotely until further notice. This includes City Council and School Committee meetings. I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to the city staff and employees who all have continued to work during this challenging time.
Here in Newburyport, we will be working together with our local businesses to support them in every way possible. The Economic Recovery Task Force continues to meet and is working with focus groups by economic sector to begin developing reopening plans on the local level- restaurants, personal services, small business, retail, nonprofits, arts, general business and manufacturing. We anticipate learning from these groups how the City, including its boards and commissions, can help play a role in facilitating a safe, thorough, and comprehensive reopening
We have The Newburyport Connected webpage on the city website, a resource for all, and have dedicated staff available to guide you. Please complete the online form and you will be contacted. You can also use this same form to request gifts cards for food, we have received many donations and would like to distribute these to anyone who needs assistance. And, remember to look at all of our resources and updates on the city website – www.cityofnewburyport.com.
Lastly, I have asked you to stay the course over the last several weeks as we’ve continued to live with the stay at home order. And you have all done so! This is why our state has been able to begin to reopen our economy and our communities. Our ability to continue on this path relies directly on our own actions going forward. So please – continue to keep a physical distance, wear face coverings, wash your hands, stay home from work when we feel sick, and for that matter to stay home whenever we can. It is so important, now more than ever, as we begin the reopening of our city.
Thank you to all of you. Be safe and stay well.