I first want to start off by saying this has been quite a trying week. Gov. Chris Sununu has made what I think are critically important decisions to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory virus.
From closing the Berlin School System to closing restaurants and taverns for on-premise consumption and limiting public gatherings to fewer than 50 people, decisions of this type are not made in a vacuum. We know this will be financially devastating to our excellent restaurants, pubs, social and veterans clubs. They all need our help, and now.
For those who can and are used to enjoying our establishments, please order take out. And do it often! Inevitably some of these businesses may need to downsize to survive, but we really are all in this together.
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen held a conference call with all of New Hampshire’s mayors to update all of us on the latest developments in Washington.
She started by saying officials in Congress and President Donald Trump have increasingly recognized the urgency of the situation and the partisanship, except for a couple fringe members of both parties, has subsided. They are working together on three fronts.
First and foremost, they are going to inject as much as $500 billion to individuals as cash payments. This will probably be means tested, those that are over a certain income will get less or none at all.
Secondly, there will be relief for small businesses, which comprises the vast majority of activity here in Berlin.
Thirdly, hospitals and community health-care centers will need financial help to weather this pandemic.
I have asked and have been assured that once this $1 trillion-plus bill passes (no one thinks there will be huge changes), we will organize a presentation by Sen Shaheen’s staff of the available programs and timelines.
One huge item mentioned by Mayor Dana Hilliard of Somersworth was keeping paperwork simple. The business community shouldn’t have to fill out a 36-page document to keep their doors open or their employees compensated in this unprecedented event. When I know, we will schedule something right away.
City Manager James Wheeler previously worked in the health-care industry in senior administration. He has experience in health-care activities, preparedness and mobilization.
Androscoggin Valley Hospital is an extremely well recognized critical access hospital. In the event of a pandemic, AVH, like other hospitals across the country, could be overwhelmed with patient care. This is why Gov.r Sununu has taken his actions. We need to follow all the precautions being advertised in the national, state and local press. Please, take this seriously!
From all indications and conversations that I’ve had with Concord, Berlin and Coos County, we are just entering the most critical phase. If we’re careful, practice social distancing, and immediately contact your doctor’s office at first sign of a cold or flu, we can hopefully minimize the impact of this health emergency.
Berlin Fire Chief Jay Watkins, Berlin’s emergency management director is leading emergency response functions.
Chief Watkins’ extensive knowledge in emergency planning and operations and his preparedness capabilities are a huge benefit and comfort to all of us. There is coordination and planning between AVH, Coos County Family Health, Berlin City Government, Gorham Town Government, St. Vincent de Paul and Coos County Nursing Home facilities as well as the New Hampshire State Prison and Bureau of Prisons-Berlin.
All organizations are working together for the common goal of minimizing disruption and keeping people safe.
Finally, I have strongly urged that the city manager and Community Development Director Pam Laflamme be the only spokespeople for city government and Superintendent of Schools Julie King be the spokesperson for the Berlin Public Schools.
You can find information as it is made available on the city’s website, berlinnh.gov. It is important that we speak from one voice so as not to needlessly alarm our citizens.
And please, follow the advice! Wash your hands multiple times daily and practice safe distancing when around people. REMEMBER, WE’RE FROM BERLIN...WE CAN DO IT!!
Paul Grenier, Berlin City Mayor