Good afternoon Fitchburg,
It was May of 1970, when I sat with my classmates at St. Bernard’s Central Catholic High School graduation. I was a senior, co-captain of the football team, and the president of the student council. I was surrounded by my family, teachers, friends, and classmates. A four year journey coming to an end. I had grown, discovered my conviction, and formed strong ties and relationships with people that still exist, fifty years later. Little did I know on the day of my high school graduation there would be three Mayor’s from the class of 1970 – David Gilmartin, Jeffrey Bean, and myself. All of us faced many challenges as Mayor. However, as the Mayor today, as a father, and once as a senior in high school - it was difficult to hear on Tuesday that our high school seniors and the entire Fitchburg student population will not be sharing a classroom together for the remainder of the school year.
With that being said, I commend Governor Baker and his staff for making such a difficult decision. At this point in time the facts do not support the possibilities of how students can return to schools safely, or how to be transported to schools safely. However, our teachers, staff, and school administration have been working diligently on providing remote learning to our students. I would like to thank them for their efforts, meeting new challenges, and being flexible so that we can continue to educate some of the brightest kids in the state! To the parents – please understand that the city appreciates the difficulty it creates to work from home or go to work, provide school assistance to your children, and make sure their schedules are filled productively. This new way of life has certainly been a challenge to us all, but this structure helps continue to stop the spread of COVID-19.
This week the Commonwealth launched a new unemployment application form for people who are not traditionally covered by unemployment insurance. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), was created under the Federal CARES Act, providing unemployment benefits to people who are self-employed, independent contractors, workers with limited work history, and others, who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. Claimants who qualify will receive weekly benefits that will include the additional $600.00 that all claimants are now receiving, which is the result of another CARES Act benefit. Massachusetts is one of the first states in the country to implement this benefit, and I would like to extend my thanks to the Governor and his team for their efforts. Residents can go online and visit the city COVID-19 resource page or visit www.mass.gov for additional information.
As of 1pm today, there are a total of 180 positive COVID-19 cases in Fitchburg, of which 80 are now recovered. Yesterday, Governor Baker and health care leaders across the state warned the Commonwealth of trends where non-COVID-19 patients are avoiding hospital emergency rooms out of fear of contracting the virus. It has become apparent over the course of the past few weeks Massachusetts hospitals are seeing sharp declines in the number of patients seeking treatment for serious conditions such as heart problems, renal issues and cancer. As a reminder to our residents, please, if you are feeling ill, COVID-19 symptoms or otherwise, please reach out to your primary care physician. Hospitals throughout the Commonwealth are safe and are here for you. A single phone call to your primary care physician could save you or a loved one from a stroke, blood clot, or other serious health concerns.
A caravan of determination and resolve. On Wednesday this week, the City of Fitchburg Fire & Police Department and the Fitchburg State University Police Department collectively assembled a caravan of approximately forty vehicles and drove past Fitchburg nursing and assisted living facilities with lights and sirens as a commemoration to thank our frontline healthcare workers, staff, essential workers, and those elderly residents, to let them and their families know we are thinking about them during this most difficult time. This was a proud moment for our City, and I thank all the departments involved to make this caravan possible.
Today would have been our Annual Stand Against Racism event held at the Highlands in Fitchburg, sponsored by The Human Rights Commission, Three Pyramids/North Central Mass Minority Coalition, Heywood Hospital and the Racial Justice Community Health Improvement Plan /CHNA 9, due to the COVID Pandemic it was cancelled. The focus for 2020 was Civic Engagement. I am proud to live and work in one of the most diverse cities in Massachusetts. Moreover, I am proud to serve as your Mayor. In Fitchburg, all or substantially all races and creeds are represented in our City. We are neighbors; we are friends and we have the good fortune of each other’s fellowship. We want equality, prosperity for all and to live in peace. In this City, together we have a mutual respect for one another, we need each other and we need to support each other. That is why when racism is presented in any form, it must be called out. Those who post racist sentiments in the caustic environment of social media and those who would condone it, must be informed of the error of their ways in no uncertain terms. Taking no action or simply dismissing statements as jokes or opinions, would not only degrade our community but demean my position as your Mayor. This is particularly true when divisive rhetoric is permitted in a forum that not only bares the City’s name but also inappropriately holds itself out as an official page for the discussion of City issues.
It seems impossible that in this day and age and during these difficult and uncertain times, racism is allowed to be displayed on social media. However, it is indeed the environment in which social media leaders create that permits and encourages such racist rhetoric. We need to prevent this environment from dividing us. The City of Fitchburg will continue to work with our Human Rights Commission to have ongoing conversations with our community and engage our residents on such an important issue. I want to assure everyone, as your neighbor, your friend and as your Mayor, I stand with you against racism.
I would like to close today’s remarks and leave you with my Alma Mater’s maxim as we move forward into the weekend, let us “Love One Another.”
Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale