Throughout the pandemic, we’ve often highlighted our front-line workers for their hard work, but there are other unsung heroes dedicating their lives to protecting their communities.
As a public health director in the middle of a pandemic, Mary Connolly admits she hasn’t even had a minute to clean up her office.
"It’s organized mayhem," she laughed as she looked at the piles of paper on her desk.
Connolly is busy leading the charge in the fight against COVID-19 in the City of Haverhill.
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"The weeks are now seven days, 24/7, phone calls in the evenings," she explained.
Connolly does everything from hosting vaccine clinics, to contact tracing, and guiding local businesses on the latest mandates.
"I would text her and she’d call me back whether it was eight o’clock in the evening or seven o’clock in the morning," said Cedardale Executive Director Andrew Gunberg. "She was always available, always ready."
In trying to keep the doors open at one of the largest health clubs in New England, Gunberg found himself turning to Connolly for advice almost every day.
"Talking to other club operators throughout Massachusetts, they didn’t have the support that we had," Gunberg said.
Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini says the city hasn’t lost a single restaurant during the pandemic. He says thanks, in large part, to Connolly’s guidance.
“Day and night, she was working,” Fiorentini said. “I had to give her an order once, I said, ‘I do not want to hear from you on Christmas day.’”
In an effort to get Connolly the recognition she deserves, Gunberg reached out to Gov. Charlie Baker.
“Sure enough, Governor Baker and the lieutenant governor issued this citation,” Gunberg said.
He showed us the official award honoring Connolly’s commitment to her community. He told Connolly about it as soon as he received it.
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"I’ve been a public health nurse quietly for 10 years, then this happened, and to hear the governor knows my name, it’s a little surreal," Connolly said.
In front of several state and local leaders, Gunberg will officially present the award to Connolly next week.
Until then, and for years to come, Connolly says she will continue doing what she loves, and expecting nothing in return.
"We’ve all been working hard these past couple years," she said. "But I also think it’s my job. When you sign onto public health, you help as many people as you can, at the best of your capacity."
Connolly tells us that after the Omicron surge brought more than 400 cases a day to the city, things are finally slowing down.
"We can see the light at the end of the tunnel," she said.
And finally, after working tirelessly for two years, Connolly is planning on taking a vacation with her family in June.