COVID-19 cases distributed throughout the city;
local case counts still necessitate caution
New mobile COVID-19 testing unit to begin operation
SOMERVILLE, MA – Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced today that the citywide state of emergency due to the threat of the COVID-19 virus will continue beyond Monday, May 18. Currently closed or restricted businesses and activities will remain suspended until restarting according to existing or forthcoming City-issued reopening schedules. The City’s suspension of all City-sponsored or -permitted events is now also officially extended through the end of the year. Further decisions for Somerville’s reopening efforts will continue to be made based on scientific guidance and the best available regional and local data.
In the coming days, Gov. Baker is expected to issue statewide guidance for reopening. Somerville will assess the components of that plan and adopt an approach that fits the specific health and economic needs of the city and region.
“We need to move forward with a process that fits our community,” Mayor Curtatone said. “Safety and a sustainable recovery will be the guiding stars of our local reopening efforts. We will evaluate every element of the Governor’s plan and determine what works best here and then implement a timeline that aligns with local and regional data concerning the spread of this disease. COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, so we will take things one informed step at a time. We do not want to risk rushing back to a perceived state of normal in the short-term, only to put people’s lives needlessly at risk or jeopardize our economic recovery. As the most densely populated city in New England, we cannot afford to be haphazard with our response to this public health threat.”
Earlier this month, the City announced initial steps toward reopening with a phased return for construction work that requires the approval of detailed safety plans before sites are allowed to begin work. The start of seasonal street sweeping also will take place on Monday, with residents being asked to voluntarily move their cars as no tickets will be issued for parking in a street sweeping zone in the initial weeks.
Today, the City announced that to help control the spread of the coronavirus, all City-sponsored or permitted public events and large gatherings will be canceled through the end of the year (December 31, 2020). Virtual events and other creative and safe alternatives will be held where possible. Should conditions improve, smaller events may be reconsidered. School-sponsored activities, athletics, and Parks and Recreation Programming remain under review, and guidance will be shared at a later time.
Key Reopening Effort Includes New Mobile TestingUnit
Next week, as part of Somerville’s efforts to control the virus and prepare for reopening, the City’s community COVID-19 Action Plan will expand its testing component. In collaboration with the Cambridge Health Alliance and Cataldo Ambulance, the City will launch a mobile testing unit to increase the program’s reach into every area and demographic of the city, allowing the most vulnerable residents to be tested more easily. Full details about the schedule and hours of the mobile testing unit will be released closer to the official launch. The program currently offers free onsite testing at Somerville Hospital for all residents.
“We need to put a robust comprehensive test, trace, isolate program in place in order to reopen safely,” Mayor Curtatone said. “Understanding the science behind how this disease operates and getting local data that allows us to make truly informed decisions is the only way we’re going to be able to assure the wellbeing of a community as dynamic and diverse as Somerville. And the first step in that process is testing, testing, and more testing.”
Initial results of Somerville’s communitywide testing program show new cases in every section of the city and across all age groups, with the highest numbers coming from those in their 20s and 30s.
“We have made a commitment to building a system in which everyone can be tested,” said Somerville Health and Human Services Director Doug Kress. “This is a vital step toward making that happen, and we encourage everyone, regardless of whether they are symptomatic, to seek out testing.”
While Somerville will be conducting its own internal assessment for setting reopening policies, the Mayor continues to actively work with neighboring cities and towns to share information and best practices.
“Decisions, including reopening, will be most effective if they are coordinated and regional,” Mayor Curtatone said. “We’re all reliant upon each other to do this successfully, and none of us want to squander the extraordinary sacrifices people have already made to stem the tide of this outbreak. Coronavirus does not care about where our city lines are drawn and, knowing that, we will continue to move forward in a measured fashion as a region.”
For more information and regular COVID-19 updates, visit http://www.somervillema.gov/coronavirus and sign up for City alerts at http://www.somervillema.gov/Alerts. We urge you to sign up for every alert method you are able to receive: phone call, text, email. Also follow FB.com/SomervilleCity and @SomervilleCity.