Haverhill police curb services, practice social distancing

Police services at the Bailey Boulevard station are being curtailed as Chief Alan DeNaro's first responders take precautionary measures to keep their staff — and the Haverhill public — safe from the spread of COVID-19.

In a recent social media message, the Haverhill Police Department said officers will be “limiting face-to-face interactions when possible” to maintain a healthy police force for the safety of all residents.

As is the case with many police departments across the region, Haverhill has made the decision to practice social distancing to eliminate behaviors that could lead to infection.

Walk-in services at the Bailey Boulevard station, such as records requests, fingerprinting, VIN checks and medication drop-off, will cease until further notice. New firearms license applications are on hold. Renewal applications may be mailed to the police station, 40 Bailey Blvd., c/o Det. Joseph Benedetti, with a $100 check made payable to the City of Haverhill and a copy of the application found online at mass.gov.

“Rest assured that we are here for you as you would expect,” the department said to the public. “If you need us, call us. We only are making a temporary change to the way we provide services, but are committed to the same excellent service that our community deserves.”

Walk-in service for non-emergencies are also suspended and residents are asked to call the station at 978-373-1212 to report incidents. Officers following up on incidents may ask residents to submit statements or supporting documentation via email.

To submit a public records request, residents may call 978-373-1212, ext. 1106, or email publicrecordsrequest@haverhillpolice.com.

Should officers need to respond to assist residents, they will do so at a “safe distance.”

“Please understand that they are likely to keep a 'safe distance' and unlikely to shake hands,” the department's new policy stated. “This is out of an abundance of caution to keep our staff and the public safe and not an indicator of the officers’ friendliness or willingness to help.”

As always, safety officials urge residents to use 911 to report emergencies or other crimes in progress.

— Allison Corneau


Local man gets probation in police assault case

A Haverhill man will serve 15 months probation after pleading guilty to resisting arrest in a case dating back to September 2018.

Lloyd Jennings, 47, appeared recently before Haverhill District Court Judge Patricia Dowling to enter a guilty plea to a charge of resisting arrest. He was sentenced to probation, court records show.

He was also charged with assault and battery of a police officer, which was continued without a finding for 15 months, according to District Attorney's office spokeswoman Carrie Kimball.

If Jennings completes his probation term to the satisfaction of the court, the assault and battery on a police officer charge will be dismissed.

According to a police report on file at Haverhill District Court, Officer Brendan Sheehy responded to a domestic disturbance at Jennings' Lancaster Street home shortly before midnight Sept. 2, 2018.

In his report, Sheehy described Jennings as “highly confrontational” and said he hurled obscenities at him, including “I'm going to (expletive) kill you,” and “I'm going to find out where you live and murder you.”

The report also states that Jennings took his right hand and punched Sheehy's hand and upper shoulder while officers attempted to subdue him.

According to the police report, it took three officers to gain control of Jennings so he could be handcuffed.

During the ride to the police station, Jennings smashed his head against the plexiglass divider of the police cruiser, resulting in multiple lacerations to his forehead, the report states.

According to Kimball, Jennings, who works as a builder, was also ordered to pay $125 restitution to Sheehy and $75 to the Haverhill Police Department.

— Allison Corneau


City halls shut down, but services still going on

City halls across the Merrimack Valley have shut down in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The halls in Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen are all closed.

The mayors of the three cities said most services are available online and some services can still be accessed by appointment in Haverhill and Methuen.

Methuen Mayor Neil Perry said City Hall would close to the general public because of ongoing fears about the spread of the coronavirus.

Lawrence closed several of its municipal buildings, including City Hall, effective immediately.

“As all of us continue to respond and react to the ever-changing landscape of the COVID-19 outbreak, it has become apparent that social distancing is ever more essential to our common public health response,” said Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera. “The health and safety of our staff and community are of utmost importance to all in the city. To that end, effective today, the city’s non-public safety department buildings will be temporarily closed to public access.”

Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini said access to City Hall is by appointment only.

“We cannot close the government to the people we serve,” he said. “We are the government and we have to stay in business, but we want to minimize exposure to our employees.”

For information about how to pay for permits and licenses online, go to cityofhaverhill.com.

On the plus side, many if not all of the services provided at the city halls of Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill can also be accessed online.

For Methuen residents, a chart posted on the city’s website lists services that can be done over the internet. For example, birth, marriage and death certificates can all be obtained by either going onto the website or calling into city hall staff.

New dog licenses, or dog license renewals, can also be done over the phone or the internet.

Certain services that require a trip to City Hall do not necessarily mean human contact.

For instance, nomination papers for political candidates can be dropped off in the drop box outside City Hall, as can census forms.

Various types of tax bills, as well as water and sewer bills, can be mailed in or dropped off in the drop box near the parking lot behind city hall.

— Bill Kirk


Red Cross in dire need of blood donations

The American Red Cross is in dire need of blood donations now that many blood drives have been canceled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Potential donors are asked to check online at redcrossblood.org for locations where they can donate.

Red Cross officials said they have put in place new measures to ensure blood drives and donation centers are even safer for donors and staff.

"Right now, the American Red Cross has a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations at these locations during this coronavirus outbreak," said Red Cross spokeswoman Kelly Isenor. "Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to help patients who are counting on lifesaving blood, including surgical patients, accident victims, new moms with complicated childbirths, patients going through cancer treatment and more."

Isenor said that as of last week, close to 2,700 Red Cross blood drives had been canceled across the country which has resulted in some 86,000 fewer blood donations.

More than 80% of the blood the Red Cross collects comes from drives held at locations of this type, she said.

Healthy people are needed now to donate to help patients counting on lifesaving blood, she said.

Individuals can schedule an appointment to give blood by visiting RedCrossBlood.org, using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

In Massachusetts, more than 100 blood drives have been canceled, Isenor said, resulting in 3,130 fewer blood donations. The Red Cross is adding appointment slots at donation centers and expanding capacity at many community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks to ensure ample opportunities for donors to give.

The Red Cross expects the number of cancellations to continue to increase, which is causing heightened concern for blood collection organizations and hospitals across the country.

"I am looking at the refrigerator that contains only one day’s supply of blood for the hospital," said Dr. Robertson Davenport, director of transfusion medicine at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor. "The hospital is full. There are patients who need blood and cannot wait."

There is no data or evidence that the new coronavirus can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion transmission for any respiratory virus including this coronavirus worldwide, said Chris Hrouda, president of Red Cross Biomedical Services.

"We want to assure the public that blood donation is a safe process, and we have put additional precautions in place at our blood drives and donation centers to protect all who come out," Hrouda said, noting the Red Cross has implemented new measures to ensure blood drives and donation centers are even safer for donors and staff, including:

Checking the temperature of staff and donors before entering a drive to make sure they are healthy; providing hand sanitizer for use before the drive, as well as throughout the donation process; spacing beds, where possible; increasing enhanced disinfecting of surfaces and equipment, wearing gloves and changing gloves with each donor; routinely wiping down areas touched by donors; using sterile collection sets for every donation, and preparing the arm for donation with an aseptic scrub.

To donate blood, individuals must bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at a blood drive by completing a RapidPass, a pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

— Mike LaBella


Catholic Masses suspended in N.H.

Just a few days after Catholic Masses were suspended in the Archdiocese of Boston, Bishop Peter Libasci has taken similar action in the Granite State.

“It pains me terribly to have to make this decision,” Libasci said, “but we are mindful of our obligation to protect the most vulnerable and protect the common good.”

The Catholic Diocese of Manchester, which includes all of New Hampshire, has taken this step in response to growing public concern about the COVID-19 threat, he said.

The bishop also noted that Gov. Christopher Sununu issued an emergency order prohibiting gatherings of 50 or more people.

Under ordinary circumstances, Catholics are required to attend Mass every Sunday as well as on holy days of obligation. Libasci said New Hampshire Catholics need not worry about not being able to physically go to Mass during a public health crisis.

“Given the serious nature of the pandemic and the fact that Mass will not be available to the general public, the obligation is impossible to fulfill and so it is automatically lifted and cannot be binding. This is the official teaching of the church,” the bishop said.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, gave similar assurance to the Catholic faithful in eastern Massachusetts when he announced the suspension of public Masses on Friday.

Both Libasci and O’Malley pointed out that Catholics are not shut off completely from the Mass. They encouraged Catholics to participate in Masses broadcast by EWTN, Boston Catholic Television or other internet live streams. Libasci urged families and individuals to make the viewing of Mass a priority at home.

— Paul Tennant


Work on interstates 495 and 93 to continue

The kind of highway work that went on this week, forcing lanes to close to traffic, will continue into the summer, state transportation officials said.

Nighttime travel on the Merrimack Valley's two interstate highways became more challenging this week. The state Department of Transportation ordered lane closures for interstates 93 and 495 in Andover, North Andover, Lawrence and Methuen. During the construction, at least one lane of traffic was open at all times, MassDOT said.

The work on Interstate 495 in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence is expected to continue into the summer, according to MassDOT. Workers will be installing pavement markings and making other repairs.

 This operation is part of a $26.1 million resurfacing project along Interstate 495.

Signs, police details and advanced message boards guided drivers through the work areas this week. Lanes on both sides of the highways were closed at 8 p.m. and reopened at 5 a.m. so crews could work safely.

The $18.8 million resurfacing project on Interstate 93 in Andover and Methuen is expected to take longer. MassDOT said bridge deck repairs and other related work will last into late this year.

Both of these projects depend on the weather and are subject to change without notice.

MassDOT urges drivers to avoid these areas and seek alternate routes to minimize delays. Those traveling through the area can expect delays and are advised to reduce speed and use caution.

For more information on traffic conditions, motorists can dial 511 and select a route to hear real-time conditions; visit mass511.com, a website which provides real-time traffic and incident advisory information and allows users to subscribe to text and email alerts for traffic conditions; or follow MassDOT on Twitter @MassDOT to receive regular updates on road and traffic conditions.

Travelers can also download MassDOT’s GoTime mobile app and view traffic conditions before setting out on the road.

— Paul Tennant 


Students win $10K for deriving fuel from algae

A team of seven savvy students at Greater Lawrence Technical High School won a $10,000 scholarship from the children's book publishing company, Scholastic.

The scholarship was awarded to the team for winning the Air & Climate portion of the company's annual Lexus Eco Challenge, a national scholarship competition that asks students across the country to tackle environmental issues in their communities.

According to Andy Morales, a 17-year-old junior at Greater Lawrence Technical High School, the students came up with the idea for their award winning project by answering a question the school posed to them in their integrated classes at the end of their sophomore year.

The question was "how do you power the future?" The students answered that in their project by figuring out a way to power everyday machines without increasing carbon emissions. They did this by deriving biofuel from algae, rather than using fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels — such as the petroleum used to fuel cars and airplanes — release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which some scientists say are a contributing factor to climate change and global warming.

In about nine months, the team designed a bioreactor that could break down the cell walls of algae with sound waves, then extracted five milliliters of biofuel from the algae which they used to power landscaping machines.

"The work for me is super exciting because I worked in the field of science and science is where you do original research and you get an adrenaline rush," said Marla Hilderbrand-Chae, the life science and chemistry teacher who oversaw the project. She added that the students designed the bioreactor with the help of a $200,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

"This group that entered the competition really refined the extraction to where we got oil and then participated in a lot of things to get the word out in the community," she added.

The students have raised awareness of the importance of their work, making a video they shared at school, posting information about their project on the school's website and even presenting their work at the Statehouse.

And one of the winning teammates wants to use the recognition that came along with this scholarship to inspire other Hispanic girls, like herself, to achieve their dreams.

"I feel accomplished because my family came here as immigrants and I feel like girls that are Hispanic or Latina can do exactly what we did," said Emily Then, a 17-year-old junior who wants to attend Tufts University. "I am going to college and I am going to save up the money to pay for college."

Meanwhile, another 17-year-old junior in the group, Isabel Chae said, "Honestly the best part about this is not the money or the recognition that comes with winning the award, but the fact that we are teenagers at a vocational high school and we were still able to do serious, original scientific research and develop the kind of protocol that we could later patent or publish."

The students will be competing in the final round of the scholarship competition for a chance to win $30,000. Scholastic will announce the winners halfway through April.

— Genevieve DiNatale



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