Somerville puts Phase 3 reopening on hold as coronavirus cases climb

With coronavirus cases rising and the state’s positive test rate ticking up, Somerville is officially putting its long-delayed Phase 3 reopening on hold.

Mayor Joseph Curtatone said that while “pressing pause on this next phase is painful,” it is “necessary as we strive to protect our residents and give ourselves a fighting chance of getting our kids back in schools.”

Somerville had already thrice delayed moving into its next phase of reopening, which includes gyms, movie theaters and other large indoor venues. Health and human services were allowed to resume when the rest of the state — save Boston — began Phase 3 on July 6. Grocery store capacity limits were also increased alongside 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. We are also watching state and local data head in the wrong direction,” Curtatone said. “At the same time, testing and contact tracing concerns and challenges continue to rise. This is a dangerous mix.”

To help struggling businesses, the city will now allow gyms and fitness centers to operate outdoor classes in groups of up to 25 people on either private property or in public spaces at a steeply discounted rate. Other outdoor and indoor gatherings will continue to be limited to 10 people.

“Even outdoors, these fitness activities will only be safe if everyone — patrons, staff, and owners — fully commits to following all safety and hygiene requirements,” Health and Human Services Director Doug Kress said. “I cannot stress enough how important face coverings, social distancing, hand washing, not sharing equipment, and surface disinfection are.”

Somerville has seen increasing trends in both its seven- and 14-day positive case counts. And Curtatone is keeping a wary eye on the state’s positive test rate, which ticked up to 2% this week after hovering around 1.7% since July 11 — a shift also concerning state leaders.

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