Phase 3 Business Reopening in Somerville Pushed to August 3 — At Earliest


– Citing concerns over metro region case numbers, State contact tracing weaknesses, and risk of new surge, Somerville postpones Phase 3 by at least another two weeks

SOMERVILLE, MA – Somerville’s planned Phase 3 Step 1 business reopening is now on hold until at least Monday, August 3, as local officials grow increasingly concerned about potential impacts amid rising new case averages in the metro area and growing concerns about the efficacy of the State’s contact tracing program. Prior State guidelines limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 persons will also remain in effect until at least August 3 as well. In collaboration with area businesses, the City has developed provisional enhanced safety requirements and guidelines for Phase 3 businesses, but their reopening will be put on hold.

Businesses in the Phase 3 Step 1 reopening include large indoor venues and activities generally considered to be at high risk for viral spread such as movie theaters, gyms, cultural centers, performance venues, and indoor gatherings. Phase 3 Health and Human Services categories opened in Somerville according to statewide plans on July 6. Effective immediately, newly announced State guidelines for grocery stores, which now allow for an increase in customers from 40 to 50 percent of capacity and the reintroduction of reusable bags, are in place in Somerville, with a short grace period for stores to use up existing plastic bag stock.

“We are just as eager as our businesses to restart this part of our economy, but the last thing we want is to move so quickly that we risk the kind of deadly surge and damaging reclosures we’re seeing in states that opened too quickly,” said Mayor Joe Curtatone. “While statewide case numbers have been holding fairly steady in Massachusetts as a whole, we’re seeing new case numbers start to tick up modestly in metro area counties. Couple this with growing concerns over the adequacy of the State’s contact tracing effort, which is essential to safe reopening, and the only prudent response is to press pause for the time being. We all know how small confirmed case increases can quickly become exponential with this virus, so we want to, at a minimum, see new 7-day and 14-day rolling averages ideally decreasing but holding steady at a minimum and evidence of promised contact tracing improvements before we take this next step. We are holding Somerville to a higher, safer standard.”

The 14-day rolling averages in four metro Boston counties are rising. The averages in Middlesex (rising from 42 to 48), Suffolk (from 33 to 39), Norfolk (from 20 to 29), and Bristol (from 22 to 28) counties have all shown modest upticks in new cases according to the New York Times hotspot tracker as of July 16. Additionally, on July 10, the State opened additional testing locations in Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough, and New Bedford, citing that these communities “have continued to see a higher number of residents testing positive for COVID-19.”

“To reopen we must have either steady or downward case trends locally and regionally — not just statewide. We must also have all of the critical components for safe reopening in place. That’s widespread easily accessible testing, effective contact tracing and tracking, and isolation support backed up by widespread compliance with requirements for face coverings, social distancing, hygiene, and business safety protocols. Massachusetts has made incredible progress over the last few months. We don’t want to undo that by pushing forward without every element in place,” said Doug Kress, Director of Health and Human Services.

Contact tracing is necessary to quickly identify COVID-19 flare-ups and stop further spread. Like some other municipalities, Somerville has developed local contract tracing capacity to fill gaps left by the State. Somerville’s capacity right now is sufficient for the current smaller caseloads, but a surge would stretch local resources. Thus, reliance on the state effort will be critical amid a surge.

“Our hope is that the 7- and 14-day averages over the next two weeks will show that cases are trending down. Our hope is that promised improvements to State contact tracing efforts will be effective. But if the situation does not improve over the next two weeks, we’ll be glad we delayed,” said Curtatone. “What we do now will determine how safely we can reopen schools in the fall, whether businesses that struggled to reopen can avoid costly reclosures, and how many people get sick and how many die. These are serious times and we must take every step with the caution it deserves.”

3 thoughts on “Phase 3 Business Reopening in Somerville Pushed to August 3 — At Earliest”

  1. The disrespect to the City’s 911 Memorial by placing a pile of wood for a movement that does not reflect the entire community is a total disgrace.

    This Memorial is a dedication to the men and woman who sacrificed their lives without any concern for themselves. Those in uniforms did the job that they were sworn to do along with many citizens.

    On that September day everyone took action to do the right thing without being selective on who they helped. It is time for our elected officials and community leaders to act in the very same manner.

    Do not allow one group to do anything they want creating a divide with others living in the community. Create better dialogue stop looking back and move forward by unifying every group to really ensure this is a community that everyone is respected.

    Start by Clearing off the 911 Memorial.

  2. So meanwhile everyone just goes to other cities to do business and then comeback here to home. Just another ploy to get his picture in the paper as this does nothing but show Somerville is too busy with other things than put their efforts into this problem or they do not have the qualified help to run this operation. This is not the whole state or it would be a different situation.People going to other cities just keeps the same risk as going along with the rest of the state. The only other things it does is show its obsession to wipe out small business here. Which by the way they are doing a great job of doing that. It’s sad we can’t have a real mayor here…

  3. Why don’t you be honest and transparent Mr. Media. In Somerville tell the residents the true number of people that died who were actually lives in the City.
    Having a watchful eye on obituaries during the past several months the numbers here do not truthfully reflect those being actual residents.

    No disrespect to anyone that may have lost a family member in Somerville. If someone was living in assisted living, nursing home or in a short term care prior to the pandemic should not be counted. Especially those people that had moved out.

    Its time to stop playing with peoples livelihoods open up the city and enforce the regulations. If you can be at the ballpark why can’t I go see a movie, go to the gym.

    You have allowed the protests to go without any enforcement even to the extent that they have placed a bunch of pallets on top of the Communities 911 Memorial.

    You and your Socialists friends are causing a great divide in a community that has been welcoming for years to all. Unfortunately you have driven many out and continue to destroy the fabric of the community while driving away the true opportunity for immigrants and the middle class folks.

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