WSAR NEWS Archives for 2020-06

Kennedy Demands The Release Of The Remaining CARES Act Dollars

Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III is demanding that Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services Secretary, release the remaining funds from the CARES Act that was created three months ago. 

 

Initially, the program provided $100 billion in relief to health care providers. But Kennedy is saying there could be as much as $72.6 billion available to strengthen the healthcare system. 

 

“Now is not the time to be shortchanging health care providers or the patients who rely on them,” Kennedy said. “Day after day, this Administration fails to comprehend the scale of devastation caused by COVID-19 and the urgency that this moment demands. These funds need to be distributed today so that our communities remain healthy and safe.”

 

After talking to various leaders in the healthcare industry throughout the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Congressman cited furloughs and hour reductions in the industry as evidence that the remaining funds cannot be delayed any longer. 

 

James W. Hunt Jr. is the President and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. He said health care centers across the state are working tirelessly to provide testing, tracing and treatment to over 30 million COVID patients. 

 

“While health centers are exactly the type of care model the Provider Relief Fund was designed to help, the disbursements they have received to date are roughly equal to two percent of their total patient revenues -- woefully insufficient,” Hunt Jr. said. 

 

He continued, “support from the Provider Relief Fund is a critical tool for helping health centers mitigate community spread of the virus, prepare for an anticipated second surge, and do what it takes to ensure the health and safety of our communities.”

 

The President and CEO of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association said that this relief is essential to the hospitals’ ability to weather the pandemic and continue treatments. 

 

“The COVID-19 crisis has devastated the financial stability of the Massachusetts healthcare system, and we cannot get fully back on track without additional federal relief,” Steve Walsh said. “We are grateful for Congressman Kennedy’s urgency on this critical issue and his advocacy to secure timely funding for our providers.”

An Apparent Murder-Suicide In Somerset

The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office has announced an apparent murder-suicide in Somerset over the weekend. 

 

On Saturday just after 8:00 a.m, Somerset Police received a 9-1-1 call from a relative of the female victim stating that she had found the two deceased individuals at their Thelma Avenue home. 

 

30-year old Amber Pereira and 31-year old Joshua Pereira were identified as the couple. Both were found with gunshot wounds. A firearm was found under Mr. Pereira. 

 

Apparently, Mr. Pereira had recently moved out of the home after the couple had separated. At some point before 8:05 on Saturday morning he showed up at the house. Witnesses said they heard multiple gunshots come from inside the house shortly after he arrived. 

 

The investigation is still open as the state medical examiner’s office will conduct autopsies to officially determine the case and manner of each death. 

 

It appears that no one else was home at the time of the incident. No other information is being released at this time.

The Virus Numbers for 26 June 2020

The City of Fall River's Health Department has confirmed 1,578 positive Fall River cases of Covid 19. 

Two new fatalities have pushed the Fall River total to 101. 

For the Commonwealth as a whole, 233 new cases of the virus were confirmed on Friday, while 50 newly reported death were confirmed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. 

The number of total deaths from the coronavirus in the Commonwealth is now at 8,013. 

A little over 5,000 death happened in Commonwealth Long Term Care Facilities. 

The number of cases requiring hospitalization in Massachusetts is now at 791, with the number in ICU at 156. 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Drought? Maybe

Low precipitation since May and recent above normal temperatures have led to drying conditions across the Commonwealth and steep declines in precipitation and streamflow in several regions.

 

As a result, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Kathleen Theoharides today declared a Level 2 – Significant Drought in the Connecticut River Valley, Western, Central, and Northeast regions, and a Level 0 – Normal Conditions for the Southeast, Cape, and Islands regions.

 

 

At Level 2 – Significant Drought, as outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, conditions are becoming significantly dry and warrant detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, emphasis on water conservation, more stringent watering restrictions, and technical outreach and assistance for the affected municipalities. 

New Bedford and its Meters

The Traffic Commission reminds motorists using metered parking spaces that enforcement of parking meters resumes Monday, June 29. 

 

Metered parking enforcement was suspended when restaurants and retail stores closed in-person dining and shopping due to the COVID-19 pandemic, until the reopening of indoor dining in New Bedford.

 

Governor Charlie Baker announced the resumption of indoor dining effective Monday, June 22, and following that announcement metered parking will be enforced beginning next Monday, June 29. 
 

The Fall River Water and Sewer Saga

Fall River City Council Member Linda Pereria tells WSAR that the reason for her lone dissenting vote earlier this week regrading a hike in water and sewer rates for fiscal year 2021 was a concern for residents on fixed incomes who may have issues with absorbing what is being pitched as a 20 dollar a year hike. 

 

Pereria tells WSAR that she wants to go to various city departments to discuss ways of saving money, including using solar to lower electric bills. 

 

The final Fall River City Budget is not due till the end of July 2020, as the Commonwealth continues to look at revenue numbers that are not the numbers that were forcast six months ago. 

An Update On Massachusetts Unemployment

There has now been a decrease for the second week in a row of unemployment claims in Massachusetts. 

 

From June 14 to June 20 there were 29,541 people who filed an initial claim - a decrease of 443 from the previous week. 

 

Between March 15 and June 20, the Commonwealth surpassed a million total initial claims at 1,028,424. Continued claims at 558,269 was down 11,170 - two percent from the previous week.

 

For the fourth week in a row Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) decreased. For the week ending June 20 there were 14,131 claims filed which was down 1,761 from the previous week.

 

Since April 20 of this year there have been 624,091 claimants that have filed an initial claim for the PUA. 

 

The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) which provides up to 13 weeks of extended benefits to those in need began on May 21. Since then, a total of 54,641 claims have been filed for it. 

 

Since the announcement of the worldwide pandemic in March, customer service at the Department of Unemployment Assistance has grown exponentially. In March there were 50 employees and now there are nearly 2,000.

Fireworks Lighting Up Fall River On A Nightly Basis

Fireworks have been an issue nationwide, lately. Fall River has been no stranger to the loud and bright nightly shows in various pockets of the city.

 

Mayor Paul Coogan addressed these concerns before Tuesday’s city council session. 

 

He said that his administration in conjunction with the police department will cooperate on a community policing effort in hopes of ending the ongoing fireworks issue. 

 

"We started a North and a South patrol of unmarked cars with two police exclusively chasing fireworks,” he said. “When they see an explosion, they go to it. Last night (Monday night) we had 20 calls and they had 7 engagements with people who were lighting off fireworks."

 

Mayor Coogan went on to explain what exactly he means by the term “community policing.”

 

"When they catch up with these people with fireworks, it's informative,” he said. “They explain to them what they're doing wrong.”

 

It seems that some were unaware of the Massachusetts statute that makes all fireworks illegal to possess and use throughout the state. 

 

“Some people they found in The Flint didn't even know that fireworks were illegal,” Mayor Coogan said. “We confiscated them. And that's what we're trying to do - get the city to be able to sleep at night. That's what we're working on.”

 

Fireworks are legal in our neighbor state in Rhode Island. There are concerns the Ocean State’s fireworks retailers advertise to and target Massachusetts residents. 

 

“Children, the elderly, myself - we all want to sleep at night,” the Fall River Mayor said. “We don't want to hear fireworks all night so the Chief has made a concerted effort to really tackle this and let's see how it goes. We'll try to stay on top of it."

Swansea's Unofficial Election Numbers

The unofficial numbers regarding Swansea’s Town Election have been made available.

 

Stephen Kitchin secured a second 3-year term as a member of the Board of Selectmen. He knocked off challenger Tara Kornegagy by an unofficial margin of 413 to 221. There were 16 blank ballots and one write-in. 

 

Thomas Rodrigues Jr. and Sonya Barbosa as the only two contenders on the ballot each locked down a 3-year term on the school committee. 

 

Rodrigues won the balloting with 504 votes while Barbosa secured 439 votes. There were 346 ballots left blank with 13 write-ins. 

 

Only 651 Swansea voters cast ballots during this election.

Massachusetts Sales Tax Free Weekend Set

The Baker Administration announced today that the Commonwealth’s Annual Sales Tax Free Weekend will be August 29 & 30 this year. 

 

Back in 2018, the legislation to make this holiday permanent was signed into law. The weekend by statue is selected by the Department of Revenue. 

 

There had been years in the Patrick and Baker Administrations where sales tax holidays did not take place when the state had concerns over revenue it felt it could not afford to lose.

A New COVID-19 Testing Website In Massachusetts

Governor Charlie Baker along with his Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito launched a COVID-19 testing website called “Get Tested” as a convenient resource for Commonwealth residents to find testing information in a single place.

 

This will be a revamped site different from past online portals concerning the Coronavirus. You can find it at Mass.gov/GetTested. 

 

Information such as who should be tested, what to do if you get a positive result and details on different test types will all be available on the site. 

 

It will also connect with the test site locator where Massachusetts residents can find a test site conveniently located near them. You can filter through over 250 sites by features like operating hours, testing for children and drive through options.

 

The Baker Administration also launched a new awareness campaign last week for testing in conjunction with the new website. It will include electronic MassDOT and MBTA billboards throughout the Commonwealth to go along with social media outreach. 

 

On Wednesday and Thursday last week, over 50 new testing sites were erected providing free testing to those who recently attended large gatherings such as the protests taking place across the nation. 


Nearly one million tests have been conducted in the state thus far.

Vote-By-Mail Legislation Passed By Massachusetts Senate

The Massachusetts Senate has passed legislation that seeks to expand vote-by-mail provisions as a result of the ongoing pandemic, according to State House News Services. 

 

The senate approved its own version of legislation that would give registered Commonwealth voters three options to cast a ballot. 

 

The three options include voting during extended early voting periods, voting in person on election day and voting by mail. 

 

There is a provision in the Senate version of the bill that has Secretary of State William Galvin mail every voter an application for a ballot by July 15. 

 

The legislation will now make its way to the house. It’s possible that a conference committee could be reconciled to produce a final piece of legislation by the end of the Summer season.

 

If this legislation is signed into law, it would be on the books through the final day in 2020. 

A Pair Of Suspects Apprehended In Fall River's June 1st Shooting

A pair of suspects were apprehended in connection with the June 1st shooting in the area of the Cozy Kettle Restaurant location on Mariano Bishop Boulevard. 

 

A second report of shots fired also took place in the area where Tucker and Laurel Streets intersect. 

 

Two vehicles were identified as being involved in a roving shootout with multiple shots fired. 

 

A third shooting scene was described to have happened in the area bordering Eclipse and Star Streets.

 

Fall River’s Miguel Ramos of a Family Street residence was apprehended. Police say they also found a Taurus PT-738, with two loaded firearms. 

 

The second suspect was found in Brockton over the weekend as Naszeir Pina was arrested without incident. 

 

Fall River’s Police Chief Jeffrey Cardoza said the Major Crimes Division continues to investigate the incident. 

 

“The Fall River Police Department will commit all of our resources to charge those involved in the shootings,” Fall River’s nest Police Chief said.

Swansea's Annual Town Meeting Tonight

Swansea’s Annual Town Meeting will be held this evening at 7 p.m in the Venus de Milo restaurant. 

 

Safety measures will be put in place such as residents who are not registered will not be allowed to attend. Check-in starts at 5:45 and residents are encouraged to arrive early. 

 

The use of the front building entrance is prohibited. Those whose last names begin with letters A-L will use the West entrance while those with last names beginning with the letters M-Z will enter the East entrance. 

 

Temperature and verbal health screenings will also be conducted prior to entry. Face coverings and social distancing will be required. A separate seating area will be designated for those unable to wear a mask.

 

There will be 31 articles to vote on including an article four to fix the salaries of all Town Officers for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2020 and ending June 30, 2021.

 

Article 11 asks to see if the Town will vote to raise, appropriate or transfer money to meet the expense of purchasing three police cruisers with equipment like radios. It will also ask yto vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to trade-in three used cruisers.

 

The full Town Meeting Warrant can be found here: https://www.town.swansea.ma.us/sites/swanseama/files/uploads/annual_town_meeting_warrant_for_06-15-20.pdf

New Triple E Legislation In The Commonwealth

Legislation was passed in Massachusetts on Thursday protecting residents from the Triple E virus.

 

The Commonwealth is preparing for what is expected to be another active season for mosquitos across the state. Over 200 Massachusetts communities have been designated as moderate to critical risk of the virus by the D.P.H. 

 

The legislation is an attempt at a comprehensive and coordinated approach to tackling Triple E that will reach all 14 Massachusetts counties. 

 

Massachusetts typically experiences Triple E outbreaks every decade or so with it lasting between two and three years. 

Fall River Line Pier Gets Audited

In a release issued on Thursday from the Massachusetts Auditor’s Office, Suzanne Bump is calling on the Fall River Line Pier and its board members to strengthen financial oversight and protect against conflicts of interest.

 

This came following an audit that questioned some of the organization’s payroll expenses. 

 

The audit from Bump’s office found that they made payments to firms in which board members had undisclosed financial interests and made expenditures that were not in support of the organization’s mission. 

 

The audit also found that they did not collect outstanding balances from tenants in a timely manner from January 2016 until the final day in 2018.

 

F.R.L.P paid for 83 expenses totaling nearly 122,000 dollars to private companies in which some of the board members had financial interests not properly disclosed. 

 

The audit also located nearly 20,000 dollars for expenses unrelated to the mission of the organization including sending 6 board members to a Miami-based conference.

Attorney General Asked To Invalidate Swansea Special Town Meeting

A group of Swansea taxpayers has retained legal counsel and are seeking remedy from Attorney General Maura Healy.  Represented by Fall River Attorney Paul Machado, who was also retained by Fall River taxpayers for their Ten Taxpayers lawsuit in the recall matter against former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia; the complaint has asked the Attorney General to “rescind the vote of June 1, 2020 and resubmit the zoning question to town residents at another special meeting.”  The taxpayer group, through their attorney, further seeks “ to make accommodations for voting, due to the pandemic, allow for absentee ballots for those concerned about attending a meeting in person, and allow any residents who were turned away to also vote remotely.”  The complaint, accompanied by a two-page affidavit from town taxpayers, charges voter disenfranchisement.

 

During a Swansea Board of Selectmen meeting held on May 26th, Town Moderator Paul Burke avidly advocated to hold the Special Meeting on June 1st , indoors at the Venus DeMilo restaurant, stating that pandemic precautions would be taken, to include; temperature screening and health questions before entering, as well as social distancing, and required face coverings indoors.  However, no provisions for absentee voting were discussed.  During questions from Selectmen Carreiro, and Heim; Mr. Carreiro raised the question of Constitutionality which was not responded to by his colleagues.  A unanimous vote was taken by the Selectmen to proceed with the June 1st meeting date; however, Massachusetts General Law gives full autonomy to Town Moderators to choose town meeting dates, thereby making the vote taken by the Board Of Selectmen ceremonial only.

 

The Swansea Board of Selectmen now have 14 days from June 6th to meet, review the complaint, and respond to the complaint in writing.

 

Swansea is scheduled to hold its Annual Town Meeting on Monday, June 15th at the Venus DeMilo.  As of this writing, no provisions for absentee voting have been publicized by the town.

A Pair Of Weekend Protests In Fall River

A pair of protests over the murder of George Floyd took place over the weekend in Fall River. 

 

One protest that was originally postponed was ultimately held at Lafayette Park on Saturday. The Fall River Police Department estimated that at least 100 people participated in the protest.

 

Officers claimed some individuals were “irate.” They joined in with the group of protesters marching around the perimeter of Lafayette.

 

There was an altercation just before 5:30 that was taken care of by the F.R.P.D. But a group of 20 or so were prepared to march to the Pleasant Street Police Headquarters. Four men were arrested after posing a danger to oncoming traffic during the march. 

 

31-year old Craig Costa of Fall River and 41-year old Valdemar Rego of Somerset were two of the four individuals/ The other two men were from Hyannis and Dighton. 

 

The second protest was held to support an 82-year old Fall River man who was knocked to the ground at the rotary on the North Side of the city by a 27-year old for his support of President Donald Trump. Around 50 to 75 people attended that on Saturday.

Department Of Corrections Reaches Testing Goal

The Massachusetts Department of Corrections is reporting that it has met its goal of conducting universal COVID-19 testing at all 16 D.O.C facilities.

 

They utilized mobile test teams to ensure that all inmates and civility committed persons could be tested for the virus. 

 

As of Wednesday, some 7,679 tests have been performed for all D.O.C inmates, with many having been tested more than once. 

 

390 inmates or just over 5 percent of the population has tested positive. 339 of those have since recovered while 50 have an active diagnosis.

What You Need To Know About Tonight's Special Town Meeting in Swansea

Swansea’s Special Town Meeting will take place this evening at the Venus de Milo at 7 p.m.

 

A number of provisions will be made to ensure a safe environment in the era of Corona. Unregistered voters or those who registered after March 13th will not be able to attend the event.

 

The check in time is slotted for 5:45. The use of the front entrance will be prohibited.

 

Residents whose last names begin with A through L are asked to enter through the west entrance while those with last names that start with M through Z are asked to enter through the east entrance. 

 

Verbal health screening and temperature checks will be required along with face coverings. If you cannot wear a mask there will be a separate area for you. 

 

Social distancing will be practiced throughout the entire town meeting.

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