NEW BEDFORD — A nursing home in the city has had a cluster of residents test positive for COVID-19, and a storefront church has been closed down for the time being as a result of an outbreak of the virus among its congregation.

In his weekly appearance on WBSM, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell told host Barry Richard that in the last few days there has been an “uptick” in reported cases of COVID-19 in the city, and that these two locations have been determined to be part of small clusters contributing to that uptick.

“We’re seeing a lot of ups and downs from week to week,” Mitchell said. “In the last few months, there were some slight upticks, then for a couple of weeks we were on a downturn, and for the last few days, we’ve seen an uptick.”

Mitchell said last week, the city averaged around three new cases of COVID-19 a day, but “for the past several days, we’re at 13-14-15...that’s a big jump.”

“It’s a far cry from where we were in April when we topped out at 94 cases in one day, but it’s a reminder that it doesn’t take much really to rekindle things.”

Mitchell said that through contact tracing, the city’s health department was able to come up with some answers for the recent increase in positive cases.

“One place where there was some clustering was at one church, a storefront church, and according to roughly seven people who tested positive from that church, one person in that small congregation, that small setting, came from out of state and didn’t quarantine, and sure enough was in the room at a Sunday mass and a lot of people caught it,” Mitchell said, noting the church has been shut down until further notice.

The Mayor’s Office later told Richard that the church in question was the Iglesia Pentecostal Levantate y Anda on Acushnet Avenue. Previously, the La Primer Iglesia de Dois Church on Purchase Street had been closed down following positive COVID tests among the congregation in mid-June.

The Savoy Nursing & Rehabilitation Center on County Street has also had a cluster of positive tests in recent days.

“(They) have a cluster of 10 patients all of a sudden,” Mitchell said, “When they did not have a single positive case until a week ago. Zero. None. Which is remarkable given the experience of so many nursing homes not only in the city but in the state.”

According to the mayor, the cluster of cases at Savoy has been attributed to one staff member who had been asymptomatic and came to work, unknowingly spreading the virus to others.

Mitchell said previously when the state had been funding the surge centers on Rockdale Avenue and Acushnet Avenue, the infected patients from nursing homes would just be brought there; he said now, they must be isolated within their own facility or in some cases, if they are able, be brought to other, large facilities that have COVID isolation wings.

“You’ve got to do that carefully, so we’ll largely rely on isolation within the facility itself,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do for a lot of patients but not all of them, so we’re going to have to work our way through it.”

Mitchell said “flareups” like this are going to happen, but that the trick is to be proactive and face it head-on.

“It just underscores that a lot of the rules that we have in place around quarantining people coming from out of state, mask-wearing, social distancing, all those things do matter,” he said. “It really doesn’t take much to spark things back up again.”

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