New Bedford Church Fined for COVID Violations After Outbreak
The New Bedford Health Department has issued fines to a storefront church totaling $1,800 after an outbreak of COVID-19 that was traced to the Iglesia Pentecostal Levantate y Anda.
The church at 1710 Acushnet Avenue was cited for failure to comply with workplace safety standards under state guidelines for houses of worship, for exceeding its occupancy limit, failure to communicate with workers about symptomatic employees, and failure to report COVID-19 at the location to the New Bedford Health Department. Violations were issued Wednesday to Pastor Jose Martinez, according to a media release from the Office of Mayor Jon Mitchell.
The outbreak at the church began after a man from Puerto Rico attended a service at the church without quarantining first, Mitchell told WBSM's Barry Richard.
"Frankly, our health department has not been getting the information from the church it needs" to conduct effective contact tracing, Mitchell remarked. "They've asked to be reopened; we're not going to allow them to be re-opened."
Mitchell added that the city's health department is "really digging in there to run down every last case" associated with the church.
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. On Wednesday, the state moved New Bedford from the "yellow" to the "red" category.
Mitchell said the nursing home on County Street is cooperating with the city and following protocols to isolate and contain the viral disease. The mayor said that outbreak, totaling around 10 people, was introduced by an employee.
(Update: On social media Mitchell updated figures today (Thursday) and said 25 cases have occurred at the Savoy nursing home, and round 40 cases are now associated with the church.)