The city’s response to COVID-19: An interview with downtown alderman Pat Long

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Ward 3 Alderman and NH State Rep. Pat Long. File Photo/Chris Dugan

MANCHESTER, NH — Even while self-isolating at home, Pat Long is still a busy man. He currently serves as the alderman for Ward 3 in Manchester as well as a state representative for Hillsborough District 10. While both the Board of Aldermen and the New Hampshire General Court are closed while the epidemic persists, Pat has been involved in video chat sessions in order to get things done.

For example, Mayor Joyce Craig submitted her 2020 city budget on March 30. The Board of Aldermen plans to meet through video chat to discuss it. This discussion, when it airs, can be viewed on public access television, which in Manchester in channel 22 or online at manchestertv.org.

Thus far, the Board of Aldermen has not issued any orders unique to Manchester. They are instead following guidelines set down by the CDC and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. There has been no need for additional policing of individuals thus far. This would include officers enforcing quarantine guidelines. Businesses have all complied with the orders given to them. Some restaurants have closed down completely. Others have limited their services to take out. Delivery services, such as Grub Hub and Wal-Mart Grocery, are taking precautions in the form of wearing gloves and regularly sanitizing any electronic device which may be used to receive a signature.

St. Casimir School is set to become a secondary site for New Horizons shelter. File Photo

Currently on the mayor’s agenda is a way to spread homeless people out rather than have everyone concentrated into one location. Wednesday night New Horizons announced a $100,000 donation that will allow them to immediately set up a secondary shelter at St. Casimir’s school. Homeless people sleeping in parking lots or in the park is not in consideration.

“There is plenty of room for the homeless in the city,” Long said.

Emergency responders are putting themselves in harm’s way, sometimes to deal with an overdoes, sometimes for other reasons. The problems which come with a city like Manchester do not go away even in the midst of a pandemic where people are urged to stay at home. EMTs continue to do their jobs despite the risk of catching the virus themselves.

“They’ve been doing the best they can to protect themselves while still attending to the person in distress,” Long said.

Have wipes will travel: MFD is always prepared. Photo/Jeffrey Hastings

In particular, Long noted that the mayor, the fire chief, the police chief, and the health department have been doing an excellent job in being proactive, instead of reactive. Measures have already been taken to deal with the worst-case scenario of the virus worsening significantly to the point where hospitals in Manchester are overwhelmed and services are not available.

One such measure is the gymnasium at Southern New Hampshire University which has been converted into a medical overflow area intended to treat as many as 250 patients at one time. Another measure in progress is a discussion on how to bring back services non-profit organizations offered to senior citizens which have been stopped due to such non-profits not having sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Tele-health has recently been added as a service mental health providers can offer. Instead of having to go to a doctor’s office in person, people who have access to a phone can receive calls and navigate their mental health needs from there. Crisis calls for mental health reasons are still being accepted, both day and night. While the city’s bus system has severely reduced its activity, buses are still available for people to visit their doctor.

Said Long, “We want to make sure we’re addressing services people are in dire need of.”

This past weekend, Long participated in a video call involving various members of the New Hampshire General Court. They discussed what they could do to help residents of Manchester. Currently, volunteers are needed to work with the homeless in the event that an additional shelter is added in the city. Volunteers are needed to help with paperwork for the city’s various schools.

While some city administrators are working remotely, others are still on the job. Residents who want to apply for a permit for property alteration can still do so. Since the governor’s executive order lasts until May 4, registration for political candidacy in the summer is planned to take place on schedule.

Thus far, Long says he is very encouraged by the response he has seen from state and local officials. There has been no partisan bickering or jurisdictional squabbles when it comes to the health of Manchester residents. Everyone involved, regardless of their affiliation, is dedicated not only to saving as many lives as possible, but to make sure no one falls through the cracks during a time of unprecedented difficulty.