While the rest of the Bay State has moved into Phase 3 of its coronavirus reopening plan, Somerville is continuing along a more cautious route.
Officials announced Friday that the city will again hold off on moving into Step 1 of the state’s Phase 3 plans — which would allow indoor gatherings alongside the reopening of gyms, outdoor performance venues, movie theaters, and cultural centers.
But due to rising COVID-19 case counts across Massachusetts, Somerville confirmed that their reopening would be postponed indefinitely.
“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. We are also watching state and local data head in the wrong direction,” Mayor Joseph Curtatone said in a statement. “At the same time, testing and contact tracing concerns and challenges continue to rise. This is a dangerous mix.”
At the same time, testing & contact tracing concerns & 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 & give ourselves a fighting chance of getting our kids back into schools.
— Joseph A. Curtatone (@JoeCurtatone) July 31, 2020
The move to delay Phase 3, which was initially expected to go into effect on July 13, comes after Somerville had already delayed the rollout twice before, citing concerns about the reliability of the state’s contact tracing program and rising new case averages in nearby metro areas.
“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,” Curatone added.
Somerville officials said that while indoor and outdoor gatherings will remain limited to 10 people until further notice, the city will support outdoor alternatives of up to 25 people for local gyms and fitness centers.
“Even outdoors, these fitness activities will only be safe if everyone — patrons, staff, and owners — fully commits to following all safety and hygiene requirements,” Somerville Director of Health and Human Services Doug Kress said in a statement. “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.”
As of Thursday, Somerville reported 1,043 total COVID-19 cases and 36 deaths. The city, which is New England’s most densely populated community, said it would provide residents with another reopening update by August 17.
“It’s really up to us whether we control COVID-19 or it controls us,” Kress said.