Mayor Jon Mitchell today said that two COVID-19 clusters in New Bedford will probably soon color the city "red" on the state's interactive coronavirus risk map.

The outbreaks at the Iglesia Pentecostal Levantate y Anda at 1710 Acushnet Avenue and at the Savoy Nursing & Rehabilitation Center on County Street were announced last week. Today, Mitchell told WBSM's Barry Richard that those 30-plus new infections will likely propel New Bedford into the state's high-risk category for transmission.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health maintains a color-coded map that assigns each city or town with a green, yellow, or red label linked to the prevalence of new cases. Communities labeled "red" have had more than eight positive cases per 100,000 population over a two-week span. As of Wednesday morning, New Bedford was labeled "yellow" for moderate risk.

Mitchell today said the Savoy Nursing Home is doing a good job containing around 10 cases of the virus as introduced by an asymptomatic worker. However, the storefront church in the North End has been ordered closed and it will remain closed, in part because of poor communication between church leaders and the city's public health department.

"Frankly, our health department has not been getting the information from the church it needs" to conduct effective contact tracing, Mitchell said. "They've asked to be reopened; we're not going to allow them to be re-opened."

Mitchell said the city's health department is "really digging in there to run down every last case" associated with the church. He said after a man from Puerto Rico infected with the virus attended a Sunday service, at least 20 people associated with the congregation fell ill with COVID-19.

The mayor said that people with knowledge should step forward. "We're trying to keep a lid on this big problem, but we need information," Mitchell said. "People have got to take it seriously."

Free COVID-19 testing is available at the New Bedford Community Health Center downtown and at various sites in the city's neighborhoods. The location and schedule of free testing sites is available online.

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