DEC. 19, 2019

The World Health Organization notes a media report from Wuhan, China, describing cases of viral pneumonia.

JAN. 21, 2020 

The World Health Organization tweets that the new virus in Wuhan, China, can spread via human-to-human transmission, based on infections among health providers. WHO declares a global emergency on Jan. 30, 2020.

FEB. 1, 2020

A student at UMass Boston, who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, becomes the first case of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. It’s also the first confirmed case on the East Coast, although there were seven other cases around the U.S. at the time.

MARCH 10, 2020

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declares a State of Emergency, halting travel, large public events and urging teleworking for employees in the Executive Branch.

MARCH 10, 2020

New Bedford Half Marathon organizers and city officials cancel the 2020 race, which was set for March 15. New Bedford still hasn’t seen its first case of COVID-19, but the race attracts up to 3,000 runners, who would have been corralled, shoulder-to-shoulder at the starting line.

Runners competing in New Bedford Half Marathon on Pleasant Street.
Runners pour down Pleasant Street at the start of the New Bedford Half Marathon. Photo by David W. Oliveira

MARCH 13, 2020

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell invokes a citywide State of Emergency, halting public events with more than 100 people, including his annual State of the City address. City schools are closed for at least one week. The school closing was later extended, then schools were closed for the year, with remote learning.

MARCH 18, 2020

Mayor Mitchell announces that city playgrounds will be closed. At the time, there are  still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Bedford, although there are five cases in Bristol County, and two city residents are self-quarantining, Mitchell says.

MARCH 18, 2020

Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees at the Bristol County Correctional Center complain of crowded conditions and fears of COVID-19, citing correctional officers that exhibited symptoms. The letter is signed by 51 detainees.

MARCH 20, 2020

A Suffolk County man becomes the first person from Massachusetts to die from COVID-19 related illness. The hospital patient had pre-existing health conditions.

MARCH 24, 2020

Gov. Baker issues an emergency order for all Massachusetts businesses and organizations other than those performing essential COVID-19 services to close their physical workplaces to employees and the public. Restaurants are encouraged to offer take-out or delivery, adhering to public health guidelines.

MARCH 26, 2020

Nurses at St. Luke’s Hospital press for better protective gear. Nationwide, there is a shortage of N-95 masks, and St. Luke’s Hospital nurses say they are performing risky work with less-protective surgical masks.

MARCH 27, 2020

As COVID-19 cases soar in New York City, Gov. Baker urges out-of-state residents to avoid Massachusetts if they have symptoms, advising those who arrive at airports and train stations to self-quarantine for two weeks. Meanwhile, the U.S. surpasses 100,000 lives lost to COVID-19.

MARCH 27, 2020

After suspending production of its golf ball manufacturing plant in New Bedford earlier in the month, the Acushnet Co. places employees on furlough.

APRIL 1, 2020

Southcoast Health announces layoffs and furloughs of non-clinical staffers, citing loss of revenue amid the rising number of COVID-19 patients. At the time, the nonprofit’s three hospitals are treating 19 inpatients who tested positive for COVID-19, a spokesman says. A second round of layoffs and furloughs occurs in mid-May.

APRIL 1, 2020

New Bedford orders wellness checks of nursing home and senior living residents, along with COVID-19 screening of staff and visitors.

APRIL 2, 2020

First patient succumbs to COVID-19 in New Bedford. In all, there are three COVID-19 fatalities on the same day, including a husband and wife from Fairhaven, who die at St. Luke’s Hospital just 3 hours and 20 minutes apart.

APRIL 9, 2020

Mayor Mitchell announces the city will open regional care centers at two nursing homes, providing a combined 230 beds for COVID-19 patients who have been admitted to the hospital and require extended time for recovery or quarantine.

APRIL 13, 2020

Workers send letters to more than 30 seafood companies, including 16 New Bedford businesses, complaining of sanitation issues and overcrowding at work.

APRIL 15, 2020

Eight New Bedford first-responders, including six police and two fire employees, test positive for COVID-19.

APRIL 21, 2020

New Bedford Schools are closed, first temporarily, then for the remainder of the academic year with remote learning.

APRIL 26, 2020

New Bedford health officials order Blue Harvest Fisheries to shut down after three workers test positive for COVID-19.

MAY 1, 2020

A violent disturbance at Bristol County House of Corrections leaves three immigration detainees hospitalized. Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson says the incident occurred when 10 ICE detainees refused to get tested for COVID-19. Advocates for the detainees say they were attacked with pepper spray.

MAY 6, 2020

Mayor Mitchell orders businesses to report workers to the city’s Health Department if they may have contracted the novel coronavirus.

MAY 6, 2020

Mayor Jon Mitchell accepts the first delivery of masks from Joseph Abboud CEO Joe Bahena. New Bedford became the first city in America to offer a free mask to all city residents who wanted one; they were made in New Bedford by Abboud.

Mayor Jon Mitchell.

MAY 14, 2020

New Bedford announces MaskNB — a program to provide free cloth face masks to city residents. The city had already been distributing some of the masks made at Joseph Abboud Manufacturing, to high-risk residents.

MAY 18, 2020

Gov. Baker announces a plan to begin reopening the state’s economy in four phases, based on local public health data.

MAY 21, 2020

New Bedford follows the statewide plan for reopening business, churches, parks and beaches, with some limitations as the city’s COVID-19 infection rate and hospitalizations remains constant. At that time, the city reported a total of 1,587 cases.

MAY 21, 2020

Hawthorn Medical Center in Dartmouth begins drive-through testing for those with COVID-19 symptoms.

JULY 11, 2020

The New Bedford Folk Festival, originally scheduled for the weekend of July 11-12, is canceled due to COVID-19. Organizers later cancel the 2021 Folk Festival, rescheduling it for July 9-10, 2022.

People enjoy the food trucks lined up outside the Zeiterion during the New Bedford Folk Festival.
People enjoy food truck offerings downtown during the New Bedford Folk Festival. Photo by David W. Oliveira

JULY 30-AUG. 2

The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament — which had been scheduled for the weekend of July 30 — is canceled.

AUG. 5, 2020

New Bedford City Hall reopens the Clerk’s, Treasurer’s and Elections offices for person-to person business — albeit with limited hours and social distancing rules.

AUG. 31, 2020

New Bedford Public Schools begin the academic year with a hybrid plan that phases in cohorts of students on different dates. The eventual goal is getting all students safely back into classrooms.

SEPT. 10, 2020

After a COVID-19 outbreak, the city issues $1,800 in fines to an Acushnet Avenue church, saying the Iglesia Pentecostal Levantate y Anda failed to comply with state and city COVID-19 safety standards.

OCT. 15, 2020

City issues fines to six New Bedford restaurants for violations of COVID-19 safety regulations. Offenses range from serving alcohol without food to allowing employees to work without face masks.

OCT. 30, 2020

Organizers of the New Bedford Half Marathon announce that the 2021 race in mid-March, will be canceled for the second year in a row. On Oct. 28, the city reports a total of 3,192 COVID-19 cases.

DEC. 9, 2020

Advocates for New Bedford seafood workers send a second letter to 30 processors and other businesses in the seafood industry, seeking face masks, COVID-19 safety training, free weekly testing and additional safety measures.

DEC. 11, 2020

After positive testing for COVID-19 rises from 2 percent to 7 percent, New Bedford prohibits visits to nursing homes and senior living facilities. Exceptions are made for compassionate care in end-of-life cases.

DEC. 11, 2020

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Meanwhile, the pandemic’s death toll edges close to 300,000 in the U.S. The FDA approves Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine a week later.

DEC. 14, 2020

Sarah Lindsay, a nurse in Queens, N.Y., becomes the first person in the United States  to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. She receives her second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 21 days later.

JAN. 11, 2021

New Bedford Police, fire and EMS staff, along with public health nurses, receive the first of two scheduled doses of Moderna vaccine. Cases are rising through January with a total of 9,596 reported by the city on Jan. 14.

JAN. 27, 2021

Former New Bedford Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr. dies from complications due to COVID-19. He was elected mayor in 1997 and had served from 1998 through 2006.

FEB. 2, 2021

After canceling the New Bedford Folk Festival in 2020, organizers announce the 2021 festival will be postponed as well. The fest is now set for July 9-10, 2022.

FEB. 24, 2021

The state opens Bristol County’s first mass vaccination site at the old Circuit City Store in Dartmouth. 

MARCH 5, 2021

Visitations resume at New Bedford nursing homes and senior living facilities.

MARCH 31, 2021

New Bedford establishes a waterfront vaccination center to inoculate essential workers in the city’s seafood industry.

APRIL 9, 2021

New Bedford Public Schools complete the first week of five-day, in-person instruction for students in all grades.

APRIL 25, 2021

Organizers of New Bedford’s Feast of the Blessed Sacrament cancel the four-day event for the second year in a row. The 106th Feast is now scheduled for Aug. 4-7, 2022.

APRIL 28, 2021

New Bedford Police Sgt. Michael P. Cassidy, a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Desert Storm, dies at St. Luke’s Hospital from COVID-19. Hundreds of police officers attend visiting hours on May 10 at Saunders-Dwyer Funeral Home and funeral services on May 11 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in New Bedford.

Hundreds of officers and members of the public line up to pay their respects at the funeral for New Bedford Police Sgt. Michael P. Cassidy.
Hundreds line up outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

MAY 10, 2021

Gov. Baker eases restrictions on outdoor gatherings, noting that the state leads the nation in vaccinations. More restrictions will be lifted as of May 29 and Aug. 1, Baker says.

MAY 27, 2021

New Bedford, which had been one of Massachusetts’ last remaining high-risk communities for COVID-19, moves out of the so-called “Red Zone” for the first time since November of 2020. Infections have dropped from a high of 134 cases per day in mid-January to fewer than 16 cases per day. Total New Bedford cases as of May 27, 2021, number 14,376.

MAY 29, 2021

Massachusetts ends all remaining COVID-19 restrictions, ending the mask requirements and limits on restaurants, bars and other businesses. Masks are still required inside schools and on public transportation, and those who are not vaccinated are still urged to wear masks.

Information compiled by Andy Tomolonis. Sources: City of New Bedford,, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and published media reports.


A COVID cluster: Retired mill workers

An analysis of New Bedford death certificates reveals a surprising cluster of deaths among elderly residents who worked for decades when the textile and apparel industry was at its peak.

New Bedford’s social clubs feel pain of pandemic

In the past year, some social clubs in New Bedford have closed their doors, perhaps even permanently. The Young Cape Verdean Athletic Association and the Elks Lodge have listed their properties for sale.

Essay: Remembering Kevin, Megan and Hank

Kevin Harrington and Megan Tench died alone and unexpectedly. Hank Seaman spent months of his last year in isolation from his friends and loved ones.

Sign up for our free newsletter

Receive in-depth news stories and arts & culture coverage from around New Bedford in your inbox every weekday.

Support local news

Give today to keep The Light shining. As a nonprofit with no paywall we rely on reader donations to fund our high-quality reporting.

New Bedford Light is an IRS-determined 501(c)(3) Public Charity; all gifts are tax-deductible. Our EIN number is 86-2407296.