City-Required Site Safety Plans, Contact Tracing Requirements, and Cleaning Protocols Added to Enhance Safety and Sustainability of Reopening
Creative Sidewalk Expansion Efforts, Proposed Expedited Permitting Underway to Support Outdoor Dining
Board of Health urges continued caution; coronavirus remains an active threat
SOMERVILLE, MA – After a review of Governor Charlie Baker’s Phase II reopening plan, the City of Somerville accepted the June 8 reopening date for all included sectors and activities such as outdoor dining, limited indoor shopping, and limited organized sports practices — with added City-required safety measures to some areas to better protect public health. The measures, which are designed to save lives amid the ongoing pandemic, will affect some reopening dates. Outdoor dining will start June 10 at the earliest due to permitting and safety plan requirements, and a reopening date for playgrounds and splash pads will be announced in the coming days after safety and disinfection protocols are put in place.
“We continue to put the public’s health front and center in our reopening plan,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “We are taking State guidance seriously, and are working to ensure that our businesses and activities understand, follow, and in some cases exceed that guidance. This virus remains a threat, we are all still learning what is safe, and we are beginning to see spikes in cases in states that opened early. Our community’s extra diligence is done with the knowledge that we must keep the curve flat to avoid a deadly second surge.”
Safety measures in Somerville that exceed State guidance include requiring that hotels, motels, sports leagues, and restaurants submit health and safety plans to the City. Additional measures mainly apply to outdoor dining and grew out of a City-organized 40-person working group that included 33 restaurateurs/operators. The group worked to clarify, enhance, and expand upon State dining guidelines. Key enhancements for outdoor dining include required safety and socially distant layout plans, mandatory staff safety training, and a number of requirements designed to support contact tracing should staff or customers test positive for COVID-19. Visual guides, checklists, and permit applications were developed and are now available at http://www.somervillema.gov/RestaurantReopening.
“I want to thank our local restaurants for doing the work and holding themselves to higher standards than elsewhere in the state,” said Mayor Curtatone. “With this virus, there are no guarantees. So we must all remain alert. But thanks to this joint effort, outdoor dining in Somerville should be safer for those who eat out. That’s just one more reason to be loyal to local.”
Once safety was addressed, City staff and officials also worked to eliminate red tape. A usual 4-6-week permitting process for outdoor seating has been reduced to hours. The Mayor signed an executive order waiving applicable zoning requirements for outdoor seating until November 1, 2020, and the City Council is anticipated to vote on June 11, 2020, to waive the requirement for a permit for outdoor seating. Chair of the Licencing Commission Joe Lynch has agreed to hold meetings as frequently as needed to avoid any unnecessary delays.
New Solutions for Outdoor Dining
Due to Somerville’s compact business districts, many restaurants do not have existing outdoor seating or sidewalk space to convert for dining. City staff worked diligently to develop plans for expanded sidewalks, conversion of parking, and other creative uses of open space to create seating areas.
“In a city as densely populated as Somerville, establishing outdoor seating requires a little more ingenuity than it might in the suburbs, but our restaurateurs are eager to adopt new ideas,” said Director of Economic Development Tom Galligani. “We expect our 42 usual outdoor dining eateries to all be approved and able to open later today, and by Friday we expect to see a whole new influx of alfresco options allowed in the city. This is first and foremost a health need, but it could also add new life to our neighborhoods that will bring a welcome feel of summer.”
Somerville Phase II June 8 Reopenings:
All Phase II June 8 Reopenings are allowed according to all State requirements as well as additional City requirements as noted.
Retail: permitted to open according to State requirements
Hotels (no event spaces): permitted to open upon submittal of City-required safety plans
Outdoor restaurant dining: permitted to open with State-required regulatory approval and
City-required safety and site plans
City-required bathroom occupancy restrictions (cannot exceed the number of sinks)
City ban on tablecloths
City-required face coverings until food arrives and server leaves
City-mandated contact tracing measures for employees and customers
City-mandated training of all staff via free ServSafe or equivalent training
City-required cleaning log and guidelines
City-required inspection and proof of deep cleaning required before reopening after State-mandated shutdown in the event of a positive customer/staff COVID-19 case
Day camps & childcare facilities: permitted to open according to State requirements
Preventive healthcare & patient visits: permitted according to State requirements
Blow drying services: blow drying is now allowed in Somerville salons, which can be open if they meet all other State and City reopening requirements
Outdoor visits to residential facilities: permitted according to State requirements
Limited youth sports and outdoor recreation: permitted according to State requirements
Playgrounds & splash pads: permitted according to State requirements, reopening dates will be announced in the coming days to allow the City to operationalize State safety/cleaning guidance
Car dealerships, driving ranges, flight schools, and funeral homes: permitted to open according to State requirements
Minor home improvements: permitted according to State requirements
Somerville Parks and Recreation
In addition to the coming reopening of playgrounds and splash pads, all parks and fields remain open for passive use. With a permit, limited team practices and drills are allowed. Games and scrimmages are however prohibited by the State, and the City strongly recommends individual-focused drills and practices that do not require sharing equipment. Information on pool openings, which are expected to be allowed later in Phase II, will be announced soon.
Parks and Recreation summer programming that follows new State guidelines will begin in July. Smaller group sizes, social distancing, face coverings, and other safety measures will be in place. Registration is now available online at http://www.somervillerec.com or by phone at 617-625-6600 ext. 2980, 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
The City is requiring sports leagues to submit a safety plan before they can receive a permit. The Parks and Recreation Department has conducted outreach to leagues and provided guidance. For additional information, the Department can be reached at the number above.
Team play guidance from the State is as follows:
Outdoor athletic facilities are open for organized youth and adult sports activities. (Must have a permit.)
Indoor athletic facilities are open and available only for supervised sports programs, including sports camps, for youths under the age of 18.
Group size is limited. Programs must separate participants into groups of no more than 10 participants, including coaches and staff.
Inter-team games, scrimmages, and tournaments shall not be permitted for any organized sports activities.
Contact sports (e.g., basketball, football, baseball, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, hockey, and other sports where players are in direct contact or close proximity to each other) must limit activities exclusively to no-contact drills and practices.
Call for Caution and Continued Vigilance
When Governor Baker announced the Stay at Home advisory on March 23, there were a total of 777 known COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts. This past Saturday, June 6, when the State’s Phase II reopenings were announced, there were 575 new known cases reported for that one day.
“We are all eager to restart the economy and our lives, but we must also remain vigilant,” said Doug Kress, Health and Human Services Director and representative of the Somerville Board of Health. “Our community has been diligent about following public health efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. But the virus is still here. You may have the virus without symptoms or with just mild symptoms and pass it to others you may know and love who could become seriously ill. Each of us needs to do our part to keep the curve flat: Wear face coverings in public, maintain a 6-foot social distance, wash your hands often and thoroughly, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay home if you are not well or may have been exposed to the virus, minimize unnecessary outings, and take advantage of free testing for Somerville residents. Please keep that your routine, stay safe, and together we can move forward.”
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. Also follow FB.com/SomervilleCity and @SomervilleCity.