Tuesday, May 9, 2006

No need to panic!

Mayor Mazzarella held a televised press conference yesterday to implore Leominster residents not to panic in response to tonight's made-for-TV movie about a fictitious bird flu pandemic.

No, really.

The Sentinel and Enterprise has the goods:

Mayor: Don't panic over bird flu
By J.J. Huggins

LEOMINSTER -- Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella and other city officials held a press conference on Monday, partly in preparation for a television movie, to say the city is ready for a potential bird-flu pandemic.

"Please keep in mind this is a fictional movie, not a documentary, and at this time there is no pandemic in the world," Leominster Health Director Christopher J. Knuth said during a televised press conference at the Leominster Access Television studio on Manning Avenue.

Knuth referred to the movie "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America," which airs at 8 p.m. tonight on ABC.

There have been no verified cases of the avian flu in the United States, Knuth said.

While the bird flu or some other type of flu pandemic is possible and could affect this country at some point, Knuth said he doesn't want people to overreact after watching the movie.

"I just don't want people to panic," he said.

There have been no cases of the bird flu being transmitted by human-to-human contact, Knuth said.

There has only been bird-to-bird and bird-to-human passing, he said.

Knuth, Mazzarella and Fire Chief Ronald Pierce all said they have a plan in place if needed.

The plan involves sites in the city where residents would be able to receive vaccinations, and the officials said they will release more details at a later date.

"We're on it, we have a plan," Mazzarella said.

Well thank God for that. I had been planning on donning a gas mask, squeezing into a hazmat suit, and hunkering down on my porch with a shotgun to take out any flu-ridden goose, duck or gull that might fly over head. But now I can rest easy.

Although I'm not sure I can get my head around this idea that everything I see on TV isn't true.

Oh, and that wasn't the only thing on the agenda at the press conference. Once the mayor shrewdly calmed everyone down and quelled the impending panic, he had a really important announcement to make: Walgreens is coming! Look at these great plans! From the Telegram and Gazette:

Leominster drugstore plans traffic light
Walgreens would upgrade lot


LEOMINSTER -- A company that wants to build a Walgreens downtown would install a traffic light at Lancaster and Central streets and improve a municipal parking lot in the area.

John J. Stewart, a project manager for the Richmond Co., said yesterday two parcels are under agreement for purchase for the project.

"We came in and knocked on some doors," Mr. Stewart said, explaining how the company approached owners of a building holding Monty's Garden restaurant and another that houses apartments.

The Central Street buildings would be razed to make room for the store, although the restaurant, a longtime fixture in Leominster, plans to relocate.


Mr. Stewart made his presentation yesterday during a news conference held by the mayor.

A CVS drugstore is farther up Central Street from where the Walgreens is proposed.

Mr. Stewart said "without a doubt" the two companies do cut into each other's business.

But he said that one reason this site was chosen is because downtown Leominster is a walking community.

"Walgreens wanted to be part of the downtown," he said.

And that's when I figured out the genius of Mayor Mazarella's master plan. We learned that the "plan involves sites in the city where residents would be able to receive vaccinations" and that "Leominster is a walking community." It's all pretty clear:

In order to combat the spread of the bird flu, the city will help build a drug store on every third block so that all Leominster residents can walk to a site where they will be vaccinated.


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