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North Adams City Council Receives COVID-19 Update

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

The North Adams, Massachusetts city council got a COVID-19 update from Mayor Tom Bernard this week.

Paul Hopkins and Jason LaForest were officially seated as the city council’s president and vice president, respectively, at the first meeting of the year.

Bernard told the council at Tuesday night’s virtual meeting that COVID-19 vaccine distribution has begun among city first responders.

“The more challenging news is that we do continue to see a steady increase in cases, including among city staff, and so we’re managing that carefully as we go through every day," said the mayor. "The health inspector, the board of health and our public health nurse are giving us excellent guidance on that.”

Almost half of the city’s 50 active cases have emerged within the past week. Bernard shared worries raised by the board of health about community spread given the spike.

“Including some concerns around restaurants, but also some slow notifications by some businesses, as well as we’re hearing about in some cases inconsistent messages that people are hearing from their health providers,” he said.

In-person dining continues in the city, despite a number of cases being tied to North Adams eateries.

LaForest asked Bernard to respond to reports that the fire department and department of public works have been impacted by COVID-19 cases among their staffs. The mayor acknowledged that the DPW had been shuttered temporarily due to concern of exposure.

“Based on the testing that was done for the public services department, they are back up and running," said Bernard. "As far as the fire department, the folks who are out remain in their period of quarantine. However, the department did a shift adjustment to make sure that the department is fully staffed during this time.”

LaForest said that he had brought concerns about city staffers not following basic public health measures to the mayor before the meeting – concerns he said the mayor told him he had addressed.

“So I just wanted to share my hope that all of our employees are respecting that call to maintain the ability of the city to function and also to protect themselves and their loved ones at home," said the council VP. "It was deeply disturbing to see people who should know better not wearing masks and not social distancing while on the clock.”

Councilor Marie Harpin reminded residents that there is a COVID-19 testing site in the city’s downtown.

“Right on Church Street, right past the library, and it runs really well," she said. "Everybody that I heard has gone there, they’ve had no problem.”

The meeting also included an update from LaForest on the city’s ongoing effort to have the federal government address its crumbling flood control system the Army Corps of Engineers installed in the 1950’s.

“FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management, and also the Army Corps of Engineers is continuing to assess the levy system in North Adams given the change in climate – and that’s a national program," said LaForest. "Despite of the intense engineering that occurred in the 40’s and 50’s to get our flood control system in place, apparently they’re missing some documentation somewhere – I don’t know who lost it.”

WAMC News intern Jeongyoon Han contributed to this story.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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