Somerville Still Not Ready To Start Phase 3 Reopening

Beatrice J. Doty

SOMERVILLE, MA — The city announced late last week that Phase 3 Step 1 of reopening will remain on hold, as leaders cite rising case counts and urging from the medical community to roll back the state’s phased reopening.

Officials will continue to review the situation in two-week intervals, with the next update coming on or before Monday, Aug. 17. Indoor and outdoor gatherings remain in Phase 2, with no more than 10 persons allowed until further notice, unless specifically permitted in city activity-specific guidelines. To provide safer options for gyms and fitness centers to offer some services, the city is encouraging and supporting outdoor alternatives.

Businesses in the State’s Phase 3 Step 1 reopening include large indoor venues and activities generally considered to be at high risk for viral spread such as performance venues, movie theaters, gyms, cultural centers, and indoor gatherings. Phase 3 Health and Human Services categories opened in Somerville according to statewide plans on July 6. Phase 3 grocery store capacity limit increases also went into effect in tandem with the State on July 17.

“We are watching as the virus rages and businesses are shut back down in states that ignored clear warnings that they were opening too quickly,” Mayor Joseph Curtatone said in a statement. “We are also watching state and local data head in the wrong direction. At the same time, testing and contact tracing concerns and challenges continue to rise. This is a dangerous mix. Pressing pause on this next phase is painful, but necessary as we strive to protect our residents and give ourselves a fighting chance of getting our kids back into schools.”

To provide fitness centers and gyms alternative, safer options, the city is allowing those that fall under the State’s Phase 3 Step 1 reopening plan to operate outdoor fitness classes and group activities of up to 25 participants after their safety plans are approved by City of Somerville staff. Businesses can operate outside on private property or in a public open space with approval from the Somerville Parks and Recreation Department. Public spaces can be used by these impacted businesses at a significantly discounted rate of $25 for up to four hours. (Details at somervillema.gov/OutdoorGyms)

“Even outdoors, these fitness activities will only be safe if everyone – patrons, staff, and owners – fully commits to following all safety and hygiene requirements. I cannot stress enough how important face coverings, social distancing, hand washing, not sharing equipment, and surface disinfection are to enabling us to resume some normal activities while keeping the risk of spreading this deadly virus lower,” Doug Kress, director of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “It’s really up to us whether we control COVID-19 or it controls us. So we must stick to the routine we all know: stay home if you feel even mildly unwell, always wear a face covering in public over your mouth and nose, wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and clean high-touch surfaces often.”

Somerville Monitoring Multiple Factors

To guide reopening decisions, Somerville is monitoring an array of factors including but not limited to the 7-day and 14-day moving averages of positive cases, testing and positivity rates, as well as any acceleration of trends statewide, regionally, and locally. Officials are also monitoring testing and contact tracing capacity and efficacy, which have recently raised concerns, as well as trends in other states driven by reopening.

Locally, Somerville is seeing an increasing trend for both the 7-day and 14-day moving average of daily positive cases, in a period marked by shortages in testing reagents and inadequate State contact tracing infrastructure. According to the Mass.gov data dashboard, the statewide 7-day-weighted-average positive molecular test rate has also been creeping up since mid-July, moving from 1.7% to 2% between July 14 and July 29.

The State initiated the Phase 3 reopening on July 6. During that same time period, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Massachusetts’ 3-day-moving-average of daily new case counts has also been on an overall upward trend rising from 250 to 349 daily between July 14 and July 28.

Booking Public Open Space for Outdoor Fitness

If you are the owner of a gym or fitness facility and would like to use public outdoor space such as a City park for a class, please visit somervillerec.com to create an account, then click on “Click here to make a Facility/Field Reservation Request” to fill out a permit application and submit a COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan and a social distancing plan for your activity. More details can be found at somervillema.gov/outdoorgyms.

Using Private Property for Outdoor Fitness

If you would like to host a class or activity on private property, please email your Health and Safety Plan and social distancing plan to [email protected] If the property is not your own, please include a letter/email from the owner granting you permission to use the property. For more information on guidelines for outdoor fitness activities on public or private property, please visit somervillema.gov/OutdoorGyms.

If you have further questions or need assistance, please email [email protected] or call 311 to be connected to Economic Development staff.

This article originally appeared on the Somerville Patch

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