Mayor Jon Mitchell today announced the reopening of a Southeastern Massachusetts Regional Care Center in New Bedford for those recovering from COVID-19.

A former nursing home facility at 4586 Acushnet Avenue will open January 18 as a COVID-19 recovery and care center, Mitchell said in a media release. It will be operated by Essex Group and its non-profit Buttonwood Healthcare. The same partnership in April ran a regional care center at a separate location in New Bedford. Both facilities are being leased by the city.

Back in the spring of 2019, the Mitchell administration and its health care partners opened a coronavirus surge center at a former nursing home at 1123 Rockdale Avenue. That care center will remain closed at this time, Mitchell's office said. This time, the larger of the two facilities was chosen. The Acushnet Avenue site has 123 beds, while the Rockdale Avenue site has 107 beds. The care center will be staffed by physicians and advanced practice nurses.

Mitchell said the decision was made with "new cases higher than ever and a regional health system stretched nearly to full capacity." He said his administration decided to reopen a COVID-19 surge facility to help relieve pressure upon the region’s hospitals. The surge facility will house people who require medical care but do not require hospitalization. The centers are designed as "step-down" post-hospital recovery centers.

“Our most important objective right now is to protect the vulnerable so that they can have the opportunity to be vaccinated," Mitchell said. "Central to this effort is ensuring that the health care system can attend to all patients who come through its doors.”

Mitchell in his statement thanked Frank Romano of the Essex Group for his commitment to operate the facility; Keith Hovan at Southcoast Health for his partnership and the Baker-Polito Administration for its willingness to cover patients admitted to the surge facility with public health insurance.

Mitchell previously said there was no way the surge facilities would be able to reopen without reimbursement from MassHealth.

Romano said Essex Group is pleased to operate New Bedford's innovative regional care centers. He thanked Mitchell and Health and Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders for helping to put the MassHealth piece in place.

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