SOMERVILLE (CBS) — Somerville is once again pushing back the start of its Phase 3 reopening, this time to August 3 at the earliest. That would be nearly a month after the rest of Massachusetts gave the green light to gyms, museums, movie theaters and other indoor venues to reopen.
Mayor Joe Curtatone said Friday he wants to see coronavirus numbers stay steady or trend downward. He pointed to The New York Times hotspot tracker, which he said shows cases creeping up in Middlesex County over the past two weeks.
Somerville gym owner Jeff Butterworth said waiting until August 3 creates another hardship. “Now to be pushed back two weeks is kind of a slap in the face. We really do feel prepared and followed the guidelines,” said Butterworth, owner of Rx Strength Training.
Butterworth has invested in technology like new air purifiers he says will ensure a clean space. He’s carefully measured workout areas for social distancing all to try to welcome back his members and get his business going.
But Curtatone says he doesn’t like the data he’s seeing and wants to delay Phase 3 again. He said communities in metro Boston have seen upticks in cases, and in Somerville 15 confirmed cases have been reported in the last week.
“We need to make sure it’s not a trend, maybe it’s an anomaly, but we know in the history of the pandemic small numbers can flash into big ones on a dime,” said Curtatone at a City Hall press conference on Friday.
Curtatone believes Phase 3 started too early in Massachusetts, and is also pointing to other states like California that are seeing a resurgence of the virus.
In Davis Square, the mayor found supporters for his cautious approach. “We definitely need a pause looking at other parts of the country opening too soon and a spike in covid cases. We don’t want that here,” said Sean Coffey.
“It’s devastating to those that need to make a living, but as a community we are doing what we have to do right now,” said Erin Sanders.
Jeff Butterworth says another two weeks may not seem like much, but it’s already been months for both him and his members. “If they’re not able to come back here they’re going to start looking at Cambridge, Charlestown and Boston,” he said. “That’s business gone for us.”
Phase 3 Business Reopening in Somerville Pushed to August 3 — At Earliest
Citing concerns over metro region case numbers, State contact tracing weaknesses, & risk of new surge, Somerville postpones Phase 3 by at least another 2 weekshttps://t.co/MRL8vZ11ws pic.twitter.com/G88GGlONKX
— City of Somerville (@SomervilleCity) July 17, 2020
When Somerville does enter Phase 3, there will be new indoor and outdoor gathering guidance that will have restrictions that go beyond what Massachusetts is requiring. Somerville did allow the health and human services aspect of Phases 3 to go into effect on July 6.
“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, in a statement.
The city is also continuing to limit indoor and outdoor gatherings to 10 people.
“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,” Curtatone said in a statement. “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.”
Gov. Charlie Baker said at a news conference Friday that he didn’t have a problem with Somerville delaying Phase 3.
“Boston, Somerville, there have been a number of other communities that have chosen to pursue a path to reopening that is different than ours terms of timeframe. But if and when they do open, we fully expect them to comply with the statewide guidance that we put in place,” Baker said. “If people have things they want to do that go beyond that, where they want to wait an extra week or two before they go to whatever the next step is, that’s part of the reason why we have a local government.”