By ELLEN ZOPPO-SASSU
On behalf of the City Council, I would like to state that we are working diligently to ensure a fair election in which every vote is counted. We do not support statements from any level of government that incite violence or disruption of our election process, or place a higher value of one race over another; nor do we anticipate any obstacles to voting to occur here in Bristol.
This past weekend, more than 7,500 absentee ballots were mailed to Bristol voters, and this process will continue as applications come into the Clerk’s Office. These absentee voters have the choice of mailing their ballots back or dropping the completed ballot in one of the three secure ballot boxes at City Hall. There is one at each entrance, and there is a drive-thru box at the back of City Hall, which does not require you to get out of the car. The boxes are emptied by election staff several times a day.
The staff at the Bristol Post Office has also been phenomenal to work with, and the Postmaster has said all ballots will be handled efficiently. In fact, the Bristol Postmaster himself drove to other towns to collect a few of the absentee ballots that ended up at the wrong post offices before the August primary to ensure they were counted. The City has hired a dozen temporary election workers to handle all the election work that is required. They are currently located in the former court house where they are processing thousands of absentee ballot requests, while the Registrar’s Office is handling hundreds of new voter registrations. The current number of registered voters in Bristol is 35,968, but growing every day. The last day to register in-person is October 27th by 8 p.m.
Substance misuse has been a highlighted topic for the last few years including last week’s presidential debate. In Bristol, we have worked hard to reduce the stigma of addiction and create pathways for families to seek assistance and recovery. In 2020, there was a 20% reduction in the number of CT Hospital ED visits from Bristol residents for opioid related overdoses compared with 2019. According to the Bristol-Burlington Health District, in 2020, male residents ended up in a hospital ED for an opioid related overdose 27% more frequently than in 2019; however, females ended up in a hospital ED for an opioid related overdose 58% less frequently. One might assume the city’s emphasis on flooding Narcan into the community has assisted in reducing these visits and saving lives. If you or a loved one has substance misuse problems with drugs or alcohol, please visit the Opioid Task Force section on the city’s website for resources. You may also walk into the Police Department or the Bristol Hospital Emergency Department and ask for help. Recovery coaches are available and can start the process for short-term or long-term treatment placement.
As of last Friday, Bristol has had 734 positive covid-19 tests and 76 deaths. The Bristol-Burlington Health District has been engaged in a 24/7 operation tracking this pandemic since March. Contact tracing is a daily occurrence, in addition to the Health District’s other responsibilities. School nurses are also involved in contact tracing. In August, there were 38 new positive cases. In September, there were 61. With the opening of school, families are enlarging their circles with going back to work and other activities. And while none of these new cases are traced back to schools specifically, we need to be aware and remain vigilant. Free testing is available at the Community Health Centers on North Main Street Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. If you have not been tested yet, please consider doing so. There are many people who are asymptomatic and possibly transmitting the virus without even knowing it.
This week, the state will move into the Phase 3 Re-Opening which allows for a 75% inside occupancy. This is a critical point for the city’s 135 eating establishments as the window for outdoor dining closes soon. In some cases, this is still not enough for restaurants to bring back full staff and be profitable, especially as customer confidence in eating out fluctuates. While we celebrate the intrepid opening of Pure Foods, Foodies and the Roasted Bean during the pandemic, we need to support ALL restaurants to ensure they emerge from the pandemic. Whether it be by buying gift cards, doing curbside pick-up or patronizing them if you are comfortable, please shop local.
Speaking of food, many are struggling to meet basic needs due to fixed incomes, reduced working hours, child care struggles or other challenges. The United Way and the city have partnered with Foodshare to distribute Department of Agriculture Food Boxes to all families since mid-summer. Since the first event in July, there have been over 10,000 boxes distributed. There are two more events on Oct. 16 and Oct. 30 at Lake Compounce parking lot from 3 p.m.-5:30 p.m., containing dairy, meat and milk. All are invited, and there are no income requirements. Bristol is All Heart, and we are all in this together.
Ellen Zoppo-Sassu is the mayor of Bristol.