New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell outlined his vision for the future while saying there's "no sugar-coating" the impact of COVID-19 as the city enters fiscal 2021.

Mitchell delivered his 2020 State of the City address on Thursday, Aug. 6 via Zoom and on Facebook Live and most of his remarks were devoted to the pandemic and its financial and social impact on city government, businesses, residential life.

"City government will continue to do everything in its power to protect our residents by working to get out ahead of the disease," Mitchell said. "Our decisions will be guided not by misinformation coming out of Washington or elsewhere, or by what might feel most comfortable or expedient in the moment, but on public health data from reputable sources."

Mitchell dropped new information when he said he is opposed to completely re-opening the city's schools for in-person learning in the fall, saying that would pose "unacceptable risk of an outbreak." He said the school administration should have some announcements next week.

The mayor referenced "tough spending decisions" while saying the pandemic "of course has squeezed our city's finances." He said the financial impact of COVID will "stretch across years."

He spoke of his vision for economic development, saying the city is "rebuilding our port on a scale not seen here in decades." Refurbished port facilities will support "the continued consolidation of the East Coast's fishing industry" and the arrival of the offshore wind industry, the mayor said.

He wrapped up his remarks by saying he hopes future generations will judge that New Bedford residents in 2020 "acted for the betterment of the city in the long term, even when things were trying in the short term."

Mitchell touted his work to control the spread, such as canceling the New Bedford Half-Marathon, converting two former nursing homes into coronavirus step-down facilities, ordering strict safety standards at seafood plants and factories, issuing similar tough orders at nursing homes, working with Joseph Abboud to offer free masks to all residents, and setting up widely-available COVID-19 testing for residents.

Mitchell noted that the infection rate within the city's Latino population is about twice that of the rest of the city.

"I emphasize that this isn't a political statement; it's just a fact, and it presents a real problem," Mitchell said. "Our efforts will continue to reflect that we are one city, and that the welfare of one group affects everyone."

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