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New England News

North Adams City Council VP Says Efforts To Curb COVID Are Lacking

The seal of the the city of North Adams, Massachusetts
North Adams

The Vice President of the North Adams, Massachusetts City Council says Mayor Tom Bernard should take further action to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in the community of around 13,000. Jason LaForest – who is a nurse – tells WAMC that table service at restaurants should be suspended and all of the city’s schools should move to remote learning.

LAFOREST: The numbers of individuals testing positive for COVID, in North Adams and across Berkshire County, is incredibly alarming. The numbers are at least what they were in the spring when the pandemic first started, if not higher, and as we move into the regular influenza season influenza season, you know, we can certainly expect that many more individuals are going to die from COVID and the flu than we saw in the beginning of the year.

WAMC: Do you think the city is doing enough to curtail the spread of COVID?

Well, I do know that Mayor Bernard and his team have been very attentive to the changing circumstances throughout this year. But I'm not sure that I agree completely, you know, in keeping restaurants and the schools open. You know, as a city councilor, as chair of the Public Safety Committee, as a nurse, as a father, you know, more, most importantly, as a father, I've lost a family member and dozens of patients to COVID this year. And I say, with every fiber of my being that we have to take every possible COVID precaution seriously and enforce it for the health of our community. I do know that all of the schools have been touched by COVID in some way, whether individuals in the school building or immediate family members. The fact that we've closed Drury High School makes me wonder why we have not yet closed the elementary schools. And there are multiple restaurants in North Adams that are closed because of staff members with positive COVID tests. So I'm not sure that we are doing quite enough.

Have you been in communication with the mayor about your concerns?

I did have an informal conversation with Mayor Bernard earlier this week. And, you know, we both shared our concerns about COVID. He's certainly not ignoring the realities of COVID. I think he's being judicious, but perhaps conservatively judicious in his decision making as it relates to putting COVID lockdown precautions in place.

What do you think needs to happen right now, especially in advance of the coming Thanksgiving holiday, to protect North Adams and the broader Berkshire community from the continued spread of COVID?

Well, I think the reality is that we are going to be forced into a lockdown as we were earlier in the year. You know, but the greater reality is that the sooner we implement those measures, the more people are going to be removed from possible exposure to COVID. And we're going to prevent illness and save lives.

When asked for comment, Bernard referred back to his statements from a WAMC interview that aired earlier this week:

BERNARD: If everything starts to trend in a worrisome direction, we're going to have to make tough choices. And I say ‘we’ advisedly because I will be talking to our health inspector, I'll be talking to the Board of Health and the Chair of the Board of Health who serves on our regional COVID-19 operations center. And that team is a big part of this as well, because they're seeing the regional view. And that's been something that's happened from the beginning. We have a great regional Emergency Planning Committee, which pivoted into a COVID-19 operations center. And what that's really helping is with a regional view.

To hear the full interview with Mayor Bernard about North Adams’ response to COVID-19, click here.

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