New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell offered an upbeat assessment of the city's battle with COVID-19 on Wednesday with an optimistic prediction that life could begin to return to a somewhat normal state by late spring.

Mitchell told me New Bedford experienced a "slight dip" in new cases and hospitalizations after Christmas, though the decline was short-lived. Those numbers have crept back up again, and Mitchell expects to open a "surge facility" at the former Sassaquinn Nursing Home by January 18. But since there are no more holiday gatherings on the calendar, the mayor believes the numbers could peak and then begin a serious decline within weeks.

Mitchell sounded quite optimistic when discussing the near future. He said as more and more people are vaccinated, he could begin lifting certain COVID-related restrictions this spring. That could include the reopening of museums, performing arts venues such as the Zeiterion, and the restoration of full dining at local restaurants.

Mitchell said it might be safe to resume many outdoor activities and events, including the Fourth of July fireworks, though he cautions that mask would still be required for some time to come.

Mitchell's optimism is welcome and could actually serve to encourage folks to continue to practice social distancing and hygiene recommendations. Mitchell has refused to sound overly optimistic over the many months of this crisis out of fear that the masses might be inclined to let their guard down. Although his approach has frustrated me from time to time, he seems to have had it right.

This positive tone from the mayor this week should be music to the ears of the business owners and others who have suffered so greatly as a result of the pandemic. After the crazy year we've all just experienced, Mitchell's positivity is just what the doctor ordered. Hurry, spring.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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