Even as Massachusetts prepares to ease restrictions intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Somerville officials are making clear what won’t be part of the city’s reopening any time soon.
Mayor Joe Curtatone announced Friday evening that the city’s suspension of organized public events will be extended through the end of the year, effectively nixing popular annual street festivals like ArtBeat, What the Fluff?, and HONK!.
The announcement came less a week after Somerville’s canceled Porchfest was held virtually as “Couchfest.”
“COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, so we will take things one informed step at a time,” Curtatone, who also extended the citywide state of emergency for the foreseeable future, said in a statement.
“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,” the mayor continued. “As the most densely populated city in New England, we cannot afford to be haphazard with our response to this public health threat.”
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Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is planning to release a report Monday on its four-phased approach to gradually reopening the Massachusetts economy. Curtatone said his office will assess the state’s plan and adopt reopening guidelines for Somerville businesses and activities that are currently suspended.
“We need to move forward with a process that fits our community,” 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.”
Somerville has already taken some steps toward reopening, such as allowing construction and street sweeping to resume. Public health experts, however, say mass gathering like sporting events, concerts, and festivals will be the last to return, due to the risk they could spread the contagious disease.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday that fans won’t be allowed at Fenway Park or TD Garden this summer — and that his city’s public health emergency won’t be lifted any time in the near future. It remains unclear whether the Boston Marathon will proceed as planned on its postponed Sep. 14 date.
This year, ArtBeat had been scheduled on July 11, FluffFest had been scheduled Sept. 12., and HONK! was scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 9 to 11.
During a press conference Friday evening, Curtatone said the vibrant events regularly draw crowds of more than 20,000 people.
“It breaks my heart to cancel city events for rest of the year, but it had to be done,” he wrote on Twitter after the announcement, adding that the city “will find other ways to share our art and culture during these times.”
It breaks my heart to cancel city events for rest of the year, but it had to be done. It leaves a huge hole in the social fabric of our city. Yet we will find other ways to share our art and culture during these times. https://t.co/cuwZORJBHF
— Joseph A. Curtatone (@JoeCurtatone) May 16, 2020