Rep. Joe Kennedy III talks pandemic response during visit to Western Mass.

  • Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner gives U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III a tour of the Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday afternoon with City Counsel President Ashli Stempel and Health Director Valerie Bird. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield Fire Chief Robert Strahan, left, talks about the Emergency Operations Center as U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III visits on Tuesday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III speaks at the Greenfield Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday afternoon with Mayor Roxann Wedegartner and Health Director Valerie Bird. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/27/2020 5:04:46 PM
Modified: 5/27/2020 5:04:42 PM

GREENFIELD — U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Ed Markey for the Democratic nomination in this year’s U.S. Senate race, visited Greenfield’s Emergency Operations Center on Tuesday afternoon as part of a tour of similar centers in Western Massachusetts.

Kennedy met with Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, City Council President Ashli Stempel, Fire Chief Robert Strahan, Police Chief Robert Haigh and others now staffing Greenfield’s Emergency Operations Center.

This past September, Kennedy, who represents the 4th District of Massachusetts, announced a plan to challenge Markey for the Democratic party’s nomination for this year’s U.S. Senate election.

The day he announced his candidacy, Kennedy toured the state, with a stop in Greenfield that night to meet voters at Hope & Olive.

His visit on Tuesday was part of a tour that also included similar COVID-19 response centers in Holyoke, Westfield and Springfield.

Kennedy noted that, throughout the state, funding is a universal issue as towns and cities coordinate their responses to the pandemic.

Yet, different communities face their own unique problems, he said. Holyoke and Springfield, for example, have relatively large segments of their populations that rely on services normally coordinated by schools, he said. With school buildings closed, the cities have struggled to fill those gaps.

Greenfield’s pandemic response, he said after a guided tour by city workers, seemed well coordinated.

“I think a thread connecting all of these ... is making sure Western Massachusetts is not forgotten,” Kennedy noted.

Greenfield’s Emergency Operations Center, at the John Zon Community Center, was set up nine weeks ago now, Strahan said. Strahan and Haigh moved their offices to the building, and are still working from there.

“Everybody’s been wearing multiple hats,” Strahan said.

Greenfield was affected by the coronavirus relatively early, Strahan said, with a few especially notable outbreaks in nursing homes. Greenfield also started contact tracing before it was recommended by government agencies, he said.

Other than contact tracing, the center’s functions also include outreach to local businesses, monitoring the local homeless population and following updates in guidance from the state government. Staff from the state government’s Northwest Massachusetts Incident Management Team are also working at Greenfield’s center, coordinating delivery of any necessary supplies.

The city is now scaling back its Emergency Operations Center, Strahan said, but the city is still maintaining the essential logistical infrastructure and the capacity to re-staff, with the expectation that, sooner or later, there will be another spike in local COVID-19 cases.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.


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