In anticipation of increased travel into New Bedford for Thanksgiving, Mayor Jon Mitchell implemented stricter guidelines for the city’s restaurants beginning Wednesday.
Mitchell paused bar seating in New Bedford from Nov. 25 through Nov. 29 to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Indoor dining with seating at tables, as well as outdoor dining, will remain in place in accordance with the state’s guidelines.
“The temporary pause on bar seating is a proactive step to prevent a significant spread of the virus in New Bedford at a time when people are traveling from other parts of the country and could gather indoors at close proximity with many other people, without wearing a mask,” Mitchell said in a statement. “The extended Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally one of the busiest occasions for bars, with many typically filled with patrons returning home for the holiday.”
While bars remain closed under Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan, bar seating at restaurants is allowed under recent updates.
Mitchell also encouraged employers in New Bedford to allow employees to work remotely wherever possible for at least the following two weeks after Thanksgiving.
City government offices will increase the number of employees working remotely. Limited in-person hours at the City Clerk’s Office, Treasurer’s office, Election Commission Office, and Licensing Board will continue at City Hall Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
“Employers should actively seek out ways to accommodate remote work wherever feasible,” Mitchell said. “The New Bedford Health Department’s contact tracing data indicates that workplaces are the single largest exposure locations for transmission and spread of the virus.”
According to public health data released by the state on Thursday, New Bedford was listed as a red zone or high risk community.
New Bedford has experienced 3,941 cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. During the last two weeks, its average daily case rate per 100,000 people is 39.2 with a positive test rate of 7.3%.
Cities of more than 50,000 people, like New Bedford, are considered high risk if there are more than 10 cases per 100,000 people or the test rate is greater than 4%. New Bedford meets both of those criteria.
“The influx of holiday travelers and close proximity to one another creates a heightened risk for disease transmission,” Mitchell said. “We don’t want to find ourselves in a far more serious situation in a few weeks, where we need to take more drastic and long-term measures, and look back on what simple steps we could have taken to prevent further transmission of the virus.”