As more activity resumes, Mayor cautions coronavirus remains an active threat
Local schedule allows for continued new case count decline, expanded testing capacity, and launch of mobile testing unit to quickly identify potential new outbreaks
SOMERVILLE, MA – After a review of Governor Charlie Baker’s phased reopening plan, the City of Somerville has set a Monday, June 1, start for on-premises businesses such as manufacturing, offices, and certain personal services. The extra time added by the City will allow for new local case numbers to continue their steady decline and for COVID-19 testing efforts to be expanded both in number and with a new mobile testing unit.
As of June 1, the City and State reopening will largely be aligned, with the major differences being that Somerville will remain on its previously established schedule to resume construction in phases, houses of worship will continue to be limited to no more than 10 people in a gathering, and hair salons and barbershops will reopen in early June after further consultation with local owners regarding safe practices. Meanwhile, businesses that will be reopening will have more time to make critical physical changes to their operations, obtain protective equipment for employees, and modify workplace routines. It also gives State and City health officials more time to enhance best practices for social distancing, sanitization, and protection of both employees and customers.
“We are putting safety first in our reopening plan,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “This is the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes. Like the State, we are trying to work through the issues of what constitutes safe economic activity in the middle of a pandemic. Yet we are the most densely populated city in the most densely populated region of one of the hardest-hit states in the nation. Everyone recognizes our risks are higher than less populated areas of Massachusetts. This brief but critical extra time will enable us to make vital gains on the health front and give our local businesses time to work through the enormous list of considerations we all have connected to reopening.”
The extra time will help the City and its partners get critical resources for managing COVID-19 into place. Somerville already has one of, if not the most, aggressive and comprehensive local testing and contact tracing effort underway in the state. But the City is also poised to further expand testing and tracing. Today, the City will launch a mobile testing unit with the Cambridge Health Alliance and Cataldo Ambulance Service. Recently, Cambridge Health Alliance also received 20,000 new cotton swabs from the State to conduct tests in Somerville and nearby communities.
“Without expanded testing, we may not realize we have new hotspots that need to be addressed until residents end up in the hospital or we see an increase in deaths. Earlier intervention is key to the containment of the virus,” said Doug Kress, Director of the City’s Department of Health and Human Services. “Having this extra testing capacity in Somerville and neighboring towns — as well as our new mobile testing unit that can get to our most vulnerable residents or to hotspots quickly — is critical to a safer easing of restrictions.”
“I understand the urgency of some in the business community, but the safety of our workers and community has to be our paramount concern,” Mayor Curtatone said. “In turn, how we address those health concerns will determine the long-term success of our economic recovery. For a sustainable reopening, employees and customers alike need to be confident that it is safe to work in and frequent establishments. We all need to appreciate the higher degree of difficulty of reopening in a compact urban environment. This is a highly contagious disease, and it has the potential to cause a deadly resurgence if we don’t get this transition right.”
The decision to keep gatherings in houses of worship to 10 or fewer people is based on State guidance that all gatherings should be kept to 10 or fewer people as well as warnings from health experts. Residents are reminded that the City’s health emergency remains in effect and facial coverings and social distancing are still required in all public spaces.
The City will be using the coming days to meet and speak with faith leaders, business owners, and workers to shape local plans going forward and also gather their concerns, questions, and needs so that we can continue to advocate for their interests to State officials on issues such as worker protections, PPE access, clarity in the reopening guidance, technical support, and other issues.
All Safer at Home and safety advisories for individuals in the Commonwealth’s reopening plan also apply in Somerville immediately. The City also strongly urges all offices to choose work-at-home for all employees able to do so in order to reduce public transit crowding and exposure risks for workers who cannot work unless on site.
“We really shouldn’t be thinking of this as a return to normal. As the Governor said, we are moving from Stay at Home to Safer at Home, and that needs to be our focus. The virus is still here. The perils we faced before we united to flatten the curve still exist. Everyone must still do their part to keep the curve flat,” said Mayor Curtatone. “You should stay at home except for essential needs or for necessary activities at reopened businesses or sites. Socializing and playdates are still not safe. Persons over 65 or with underlying health conditions must continue to take extra precautions. Facial coverings must be worn in public, and hand washing is still vital. How well we each meet these responsibilities will determine whether we keep the virus under control or if we face a deadly second surge. We remain in this together, and together we will get through this.”
The official calendar for reopenings in Somerville is as follows. Please note that State safety requirements and any Somerville safety requirements (such as construction site safety plan approval) must be met for entities seeking to reopen. Entities found to be out of compliance will be ordered to comply or suspend operations:
Construction phase one, primarily large municipal and utility projects (only with approved safety plans)
Hospital and medical care facilities for high-priority preventative care visits
Houses of worship with a ten-person limit and social distancing
Curbside retail and remote order fulfillment
Additional healthcare providers as defined by the State plan
DCR parks, with appropriate social distancing practices and passive uses
Laboratory and life science facilities
Offices – work from home strongly encouraged wherever possible; businesses should restrict workforce to less than 25% maximum occupancy and strive for less
Pet grooming by appointment only
Car washes – only exterior car washing allowed
Recreation and outdoor areas, notably athletic fields and courts, boating, and outdoor gardens (as per the State plan and City orders, playgrounds will remain closed until further notice)
Construction phase two, primarily residential and commercial construction (only with approved safety plans)
Early June (announcement of date to follow):
Hair salons and barbershops by appointment only
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.