City of Somerville

Agenda Item
Kept in Committee
Aug 31, 2020 6:00 PM

That the Director of Health and Human Services appear before this Council with an update on measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and to support anyone who may become infected.


Department:City CouncilSponsors:City Councilor At Large Stephanie Hirsch, Ward One City Councilor Matthew McLaughlin

Official Text

That the Director of Health and Human Services appear before this Council to provide an update on measures being taken to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Somerville and to support anyone who may become infected.


Meeting History

Mar 12, 2020 7:00 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting

The Mayor provided an update on the rapidly increasing Coronavirus outbreak. There are three presumptive positive Coronavirus cases in Somerville. He anticipates the number will increase based on data from CBC and WHO. He discussed the City's response: all city buildings and schools have been closed for two weeks, and the City's Emergency Response Team has been activated, led by former Legislative Liaison Omar Boukili. The city is working on ways to feed 2/3 of the children who receive free lunches, and ways to eliminate the burden on the health care system. Nationally there are over one million ICU beds, with a shortage of 100,000. A panel of Somerville medical experts determined we don’t have the capacity to meet the coming surge. A vaccine won’t be available for at least a year. Steps to help control the virus include washing hands, social distancing, and checking on the elderly. School closures may last 4 to 8 weeks or longer. Key services in the community will continue, such as Police and Fire. Councilor Rossetti expressed how important it is for the public to receive updates.

Councilor Rossetti asked if discussion have been held with union leadership, and if employees will be paid during the outbreak. The Mayor responded that everyone will be paid, and stipend employees will not be sent home without pay. Councilor Clingan asked if the city is working with community health partners such as the Cambridge Health Alliance, and if the emergency room will still be closed in April. Health Director Doug Kress responded that the CHA is reviewing the closure, and is not turning anyone away. But if you are experiencing symptoms call your doctor before going to the emergency room. Councilor Mbah asked what people should do if they don’t have health insurance. The Mayor responded everyone, including undocumented persons, should seek treatment.

Councilor Ballantyne asked if all community and school meetings will be cancelled, and the Mayor responded that they will be. Councilor Ballantyne asked for details on providing food to students. School Department Chief of Staff Jeff Curly said the district has been purchasing food and has 2,000 meals ready to go. On Monday, the district’s food service trucks will deliver meals around the city. The schedule will be shared over the weekend. Some of the partners include Food for Free, Save up Somerville, the Somerville Backpack program, the Connection Church, and family liaisons.

The Mayor expressed the need for more Coronavirus tests for the public. Some people who have the virus do not show symptoms. Experts estimate that 40%-60% of the nation will be infected by the virus.

Councilor Hirsch asked how the public help can. Councilor Ewen-Campen noted that the public needs to practice social distancing and follow safety guidelines. Councilor Scott said there are many groups delivering needed items to high risk individuals; those interested should visit Councilor Scott asked if all enforcement actions will be suspended, and the Mayor responded that the city is working to help relieve expenses for residents. Councilor Scott asked if food service or grocery stores will continue to be inspected and was told there are protocols in place for emergency inspections but not regular inspections. Councilor Davis asked if there is a plan for remote learning and the technology gap. Mr. Curly responded that on Monday, learning activities will be online for all grades and Chromebooks will be available for students who need them.

Councilor Ballantyne asked how they can help people facing eviction from their homes. Housing Stability Director Ellen Shachter said the city is working on encouraging moratoriums for evictions, and waiting for a response from the Somerville Housing Authority.

Councilor Davis discussed cancelling meetings, including City Council meetings. Councilor Hirsch expressed concern with cancelling meetings. Councilor Ewen-Campen suggested hosting City Council meetings online for the public. Councilor Rossetti requested that Mr. Curly keep the Councilors informed on School communications going out to families. Councilor McLaughlin said he hasn’t been advised to cancel meetings and will leave this decision to Committee Chairs. The Mayor has granted approval to work remotely, but city staff might not be able to attend these meetings.

Mar 24, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Mayor Curtatone thanked everyone for participating in this historic event and shared an update about how the municipality is addressing this crisis. He thanked the City Council and School Committee for helping support the City's operations. He cautioned that things will get worse before they get better, but resources are available through 311 and the City's website. He has been sharing information with and learning from many other municipalities and experts. We must take this seriously and advocate for a greater regional approach. There will be extreme disruptions, and everyone must be prepared to do their part.

Mayor Curtatone introduced Dr. Scarpino, the director of the Emergent Epidemics Lab at Northeastern University, who has 10+ years of experience translating research into public health decision support and data science tools and Dr. Santillana, the director of the Machine Intelligence Lab at Harvard University, who has expertise in mapping epidemic outbreaks in multiple locations worldwide by leveraging information from big data sets. Dr. Santillana has advised the CDC, Africa CDC, and the White House on the development of population-wide disease forecasting tools.

Dr. Santillana shared a presentation with details about flattening the curve and noted that we are entering a new phase of the pandemic, moving away from containment and focusing on mitigation. He detailed comparative situations in various countries and added that in order to transition back to "business as usual", we need to track contact with individuals who are sick, as well as ramp up testing. There is evidence to support that many of the infections have been undetected, rather than increasing dramatically over the last several days. Dr. Scarpino thanked Somerville for leading the way in taking this seriously and added that measures to prevent the re-introduction of cases that are suggested include testing, notification, and isolation of sick individuals. Because of the time it takes from symptom-onset to hospitalization means that the peak of both hospitalizations and mortality has not yet occurred and we need to continue to mobilize around both testing and providing personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Mayor added that a tsunami is coming and Dr. Scarpino confirmed that the cases are doubling every 2.5 days and Dr. Santillana added that there will likely be increases for the next three weeks. Councilor McLaughlin asked how the Council or others can assist, if they do not have supplies available. Mr. Lanphere, EMD CHA noted that the situation around PPE is dire. The N95 masks were depleted but there is a stockpile; surgical masks and goggles are the primary need at this point to protect staff. Ms. Cassesso added that they are asking for donations through neighborhood groups. The pattern and directions are linked online, or fabric can be donated. Please visit the following website for more information:

Councilor Scott commented that the number of hospitalizations is an important indicator and wondered about the number in Somerville and the trend in the area. Dr. Santillana responded that the lag time is about two weeks, so those entering the hospital now were infected about two weeks ago. But hospitalizations are not reported at the City level. Councilor Ballantyne added that according to a press conference this afternoon, Ms. Sudders (Secretary of HHS) noted that City-level information is not being shared because of the stigma attached to people who have contracted COVID-19. Councilor White wondered whether joggers pose a risk and Dr. Santillana noted that per a call with the CDC, asymptomatic transmission is a concern, so the 6 foot distance should still be maintained even if outside. The Mayor will add that to the general guidelines. Councilor Niedergang suggested opening some streets to pedestrians (outside of residents of the street), as the Community Path is already crowded and there are not many places for people to run.

Councilor Ewen-Campen asked about the lag time between when shutdown measures are instituted and when we will see a peak. Dr. Santillana emphasized that in an ideal world, if everyone could stay indoors for two weeks, transmission of the virus could be stopped. The level of susceptibility is still high, and new hot spots can be easily generated. In a more realistic scenario, the current interventions need to be in place for 4-6 weeks while still increasing testing and contact tracing. The peak of infections is estimated at 3-4 weeks from when measures are implemented, and the peak on the hospital system is an additional 1-2 weeks from that time. Councilor Hirsch wondered if the lack of regional response and porous borders in the area affect this cycle. Dr. Scarpino noted that the imported cases are a small part of the outbreak. The local cases swamp the outside cases. Once the first part of the curve is past, preventing re-introduction is critical. Councilor Mbah asked further about timelines and severity and Dr. Scarpino clarified that it generally takes between 5 days and 2 weeks to show symptoms, but it is important to remember that a person can infect others even before they have symptoms. Mr. Lanphere also shared that on an average day, the hospital system in the state is already at approximately 97% capacity. The impact of social distancing has helped decrease this in the short term. The capacity of ICU level care is short, and preventing the decompensation from occurring in order to limit the need for this care is important.

Councilor Rossetti asked about whether South Korea or China have changed the criteria relative to contact tracing and forcing those individuals to isolate. Dr. Scarpino noted that the case numbers are beyond what can be addressed with contact tracing at this point. An important mechanism has been using mobile and web-based tools for establishing these contacts.

Councilor Hirsch asked which City functions remain in focus, including street sweeping and clearing bike lanes. Ms. Webber announced that street sweeping will be delayed until at least April 15. Ms. Connor noted that essential functions currently are listed on the City's website and is constantly updated, but payroll, paying bills, mail collection, and public works emergency issues are still ongoing. Mr. Kress included information about protecting front line workers, in particular that the City is trying to identify locations for housing for employees to stay at to remain safe. He emphasized that social distancing and hand washing are imperative. Councilor Hirsch asked for clarification around trash collection, and Ms. Connor expressed that it likely remains under the authority of the contractor who provides the service, but will follow up with the Law Department to confirm.

Councilor Rossetti wondered about an extension of the closures and Ms. Connor noted that they would likely remain closed beyond the initial two weeks, but an exact date remains unknown. Ms. Webber added that the Mayor would remain involved with regional efforts. Councilor Ballantyne asked about a chart of staff contacts, and Ms. Connor indicated that those individuals are the leads in the incident command staff for the crisis, and not a comprehensive list of working staff. Councilor Scott asked whether there is a central repository for giving and/or receiving assistance in the City. Mr. Kress shared that there is a volunteer coordinator working to connect abilities with needs, but there is a process to conduct CORI checks and ensure that there are long-term commitments made, as well as continued adherence to social distancing.

Mar 30, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Webber asked HHS Director Kress to share what the administration has been working on since the previous meeting. Mr. Kress presented a short overview, with a reminder that a primary goal of Health and Human Services is contact tracing for anyone who has tested positive, in order to reduce the virus's spread. He also emphasized that a primary way to slow the spread of the virus is for everyone to continue to stay home. The growth in the number of cases in Somerville has slowed slightly but the availability of tests remains limited. He also noted that we have not reached the peak and there are currently 56 cases in Somerville, with 9 that have moved to the recovery stage. Other work that the department is focused on includes addressing housing challenges, both to ensure safety for first responders and to reach the homeless community. This includes working with Tufts University to make dormitory facilities available for first responders who wish to isolate themselves from families at home to reduce the risk of spreading the virus and could also include separate facilities for use by individuals or families experiencing homelessness that need to be isolated from shelters. There are regional efforts with Cambridge, Everett, Malden, Arlington, Revere, and CHA around this as well, and they have reached out to MEMA for assistance. They are also working with businesses on efforts to promote social distancing and limit the number of individuals in stores at a given time. There will also be opportunities explored to help support small businesses. The receipt of two grants of $100,000 each was approved by the Council last week, and the department will continue to seek additional funds through DPH and FEMA.

Many people have reached out about volunteering, and Director Kress emphasized that right now it is important to stay home and encourage friends and others in our circles to do the same. There are opportunities through the City as well as the medical reserve corps website ( that individuals can sign up for, noting that many of the opportunities may not be available until the future. The department is researching nonprofits that are accepting financial donations, as well as supporting partner agencies such as the VNA. Some of the mental health work is also being addressed through social media and public broadcasting, including resources around dealing with grief.

Councilor Mbah asked how the tests are allocated and Mr. Kress noted that they are only available with a referral from a primary care physician (PCP), and PCP's are assessing a risk level to determine how to best allocate the available tests. Mr. Kress also emphasized the need for social distancing even when outside, and even with those in our own homes to the extent that it is possible. This is a droplet virus that lives for longer on hard surfaces due to the moisture. Frequent hand washing is the best way to combat this spread. Councilor Mbah suggested distributing information about how long the virus lasts on various surfaces. Councilor Rossetti asked for more information about the housing being made available through Tufts for first responders, and Mr. Kress confirmed that it will be an option for first responders who may not want to go home and possibly subject their families to the virus. Councilor Rossetti asked further if Tufts planned to also make facilities available for recovering patients, and Mr. Kress clarified that it is still under review, but would be in separate buildings from the first responders. Councilor Rossetti also wondered if the potential 75% reimbursement would be from the federal stimulus package, and Mr. Kress believes it would be a different pot of money provided by FEMA. He will verify where those FEMA funds are coming from and report back to the Committee.

Councilor Scott wondered if there was additional assistance for constituents who have filed for unemployment or other resources and are awaiting a response or encountering issues and asked if there was a liaison, similar to those within the Office of Housing Stability, who could be contacted. Mr. Kress suggested the Office of Economic Development but will look into which particular staff members are the appropriate point of contact. The city’s COVID-19 response website remains a good first resource for information ( <>). Councilor Clingan added that the Job Creation and Retention Trust has shifted funds to make COVID-19 assistance grants available. The application can be accessed here:

Ms. Webber added that Mr. Galligani and OSPCD have been holding town hall meetings with small businesses to keep them informed about resources that are or will be available, including micro-loans available through the state and resources through the federal stimulus package. Councilor Scott asked what can be done about businesses or individuals who are ignoring the social distancing order or essential guidelines and whether there is a repository for complaints. Mr. Kress suggested that 311 is the best option, and they will inform the proper department to address the situations.

Councilor Niedergang shared that a resident reached out with a concern that the Fire Department has not received extra training or preparation and asked what is being done for first responders and Mr. Kress noted that there is training through the departments around use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other techniques. Health and Human Services is developing guidelines for businesses including grocery stores and pharmacies around how best to implement the social distancing guidelines. The State has not provided any specific guidelines/procedures for this so Somerville will be leading the effort to formalize a process that can be used by other municipalities as well. Addressing the homeless population has been a regional approach, with tents that would include separate space for quarantine and isolation. Mr. Kress has been working with shelters and other group living facilities, but there are no specific alternate living spaces (such as hotels) at this time.

Councilor Clingan noted a concern that there are instances where construction is still underway, and Ms. Connor noted that there is an exception for construction in dwelling units that are occupied that are essential for that unit to be occupied (such as kitchens). The work must cease once the unit can be safely occupied. Councilor Scott suggested that ISD is aware of these situations and can be contacted with concerns.

Councilor Ewen-Campen asked whether there is an update on the Council’s request to close selected streets to make space for pedestrian recreation while maintaining social distancing, particularly in light of crowding on the Community Path. Ms. Connor stated that the Administration will not be pursuing this option. She noted that the main reason for this is that it would create logistical and capacity burdens for both public safety and public works staff who need to focus their attention on more pressing matters. There are also concerns that the novelty will draw people to these areas, creating additional crowds. There will be a wayfinding and public relations campaign to suggest ways to be outside that avoid the community path and other areas that have been highly concentrated. Councilor Hirsch asked for further guidance on whether there is enough evidence that the six foot distance is sufficient to encourage people to gather while remaining separate or whether it should be discouraged completely. Mr. Kress shared that the distance is generally enough; the key is that it must be far enough to avoid any droplets that may be transmitted, so barriers of any kind are helpful.

Councilor Hirsch also asked if there was a backup staffing model in the event that many first responders are infected and Mr. Kress noted that both Police and Fire departments are working on continuity of operations plans. Councilor Hirsch also shared a reminder about the importance of Health and Human Services functions as the City Council plans for future budgets. Councilor White noted a concern with mental health issues as residents are alone for long periods of time and asked that counseling resources be shared. Mr. Kress noted that the Council on Aging and Housing Authority are working to cultivate opportunities to provide programming. Councilor White noted further that jogging or running too close to others poses a risk and encouraged informing the community to be courteous of others and maintain distance. Chair Davis added that there may be a need to prohibit running or jogging in high-traffic areas such as the community path, and that the messaging that runners need to follow social distancing guidelines (among themselves and with regard to people they are passing) needs to be much more explicit. Councilor Hirsch added as well that there is a perception that traffic is faster because there are fewer vehicles on the road and Ms. Connor will convey that to the Police Department.

Chair Davis asked whether the City property taxes would still continue to be due as scheduled. Ms. Connor and Ms. Webber will research that further to provide an answer. Councilor Hirsch also asked for advice on whether there is a recommendation to wear masks when going out, and Mr. Kress noted that it is a personal preference but if the choice is made to wear one, it is important to do so properly, including covering both the nose and mouth, leaving it in place, and washing hands when putting on and removing. There is concern that the mask will not offer protection when used improperly. Also, first responders could really use surgical masks if individuals have those available. Councilor Scott thanked the city staff as well as the community members who are making masks and hand sanitizer, among other contributions.

Apr 6, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Koh gave a COVID-19 situation update covering global, national, state and local data trends, compiled from the most reliable data available, and highlighted several aspects of the crisis, including:

· As of today, there have been a total of 1,280,046 cases world wide (a 74% increase over the March 30, 2020 number of cases)

· As of today, there have been a total of 69,789 fatalities world wide (a 100% increase over the March 30, 2020 number of fatalities)

· To date, 265,462 people have recovered from the illness

· Massachusetts ranks 6th on the list of states for the number of cases (and 4th on the number of cases per capita)

· MA DPH data indicates that there have been substantial increases in the number of total cases, hospitalizations and fatalities from March 29,2020 to April 5, 2020

· Somerville averaged 12 new cases per day from March 30, 2020 to April 6, 2020, bringing the total number of positive cases to 133, of which 46 recovered and 1 resulted in a fatality

· MA State officials anticipate a medical surge between April 10 - 20 with a potential for 47,000 to 172,000 cases

· Calls made to the city’s 311 call center have been primarily for informational purposes

· The city has been providing an average of 950 meals per day (breakfast and lunch) at school locations

· The city’s food pantry has been distributing bags of food to households and organizations

· The Council on Aging is working with Meals on Wheels to provide meal deliveries and transportation to grocery stores

Ms. Koh stated that she would provide the slides to the Council so that they can be attached to the meeting minutes and available online to the public.

Councilor Rossetti asked Ms. Koh to provide information on the financial impact to the city resulting from its efforts to combat this virus. Councilor Hirsch inquired about peaks in the curve and Mr. Kress explained that when the number of positive tests decline, people are in recovery and that after the peak, fewer people will test positive on a daily basis.

Mr. Kress provided an update, as well, and told the committee that there has been a change about the need for using masks, noting that since we don't know who may be positive or asymptomatic, the use of masks is helpful. He stressed that the 6-foot social distancing parameter is still in effect and he urged everyone to wash their hands before and after going outside. Additional precautions should include wiping down steering wheels, keys, gear shifts, etc. The city’s HHS Department has provided guidance on cleaning large apartment buildings as well as on the preferred procedure for obtaining take-out food. Additionally, the department is dispensing personal protective equipment to various agencies in the city and has entered into a partnership with Tufts to provide space to house first responders. The city has also partnered with the City of Cambridge to provide housing for homeless individuals and is attempting to identify another location to deal with overcrowding situations.

Responding to a question, Mr. Kress said that complaints concerning a restaurant’s operation should be made directly to the city’s Inspectional Services Department. He also said that guidelines for ride share food delivery services should be added to the guidelines for restaurants. Councilor Niedergang inquired about social distancing on the community path, commenting that he's getting calls about the bike path becoming a meeting location for groups of people. Mr. Kress replied that this is an enforcement issue that's being looked at and Ms. Connor added that the matter has been elevated to the Police Department. Officers are going to parks to spread the word and brake up groups of people congregating there. Ms. Connor will ask the police to step up their patrols. Ms. Webber stated that the city has posted signs informing people to utilize other areas for walking, e.g., sidewalks. Councilor Ballantyne reported that she spoke with Representative Barber about this situation and was assured that the representative would see if anything can be done at state level.

Councilor Rossetti followed up on her question from last week regarding state assistance, federal stimulus, and FEMA funding and Mr. Kress stated that the recent $200,000 grant received by HHS came from the DPH. Councilor Rossetti also requested a COVID-19 financial aid update, specifically, what funds the city has received so far and what has been expended to date. She would appreciate it if this information could be available for the April 7, 2020 City Council meeting. Councilor Hirsch asked what was being done to deal with overcrowding in households where someone has tested positive for the virus since it could be a disincentive to being tested if there isn’t a place for them to be isolated. Mr. Kress replied that the city is looking for a location to use as a shelter and is also exploring ways to provide housing for affected families.

Councilor Mbah asked about wearing gloves and testing supermarket employees and Mr. Kress said that he worries that people may have a false sense of security when wearing them, since gloves may keep their hands clean, but they won't stop the possibility of transferring the virus to one’s face. If someone wants to wear gloves, he suggests washing them when finished with the task at hand. As for testing supermarket employees, he said that would be a business decision. Councilor Clingan asked for a description of how mask decontamination is performed at the recently opened facility (at the former Kmart site). Mr. Kress will provide a response. Councilor Ballantyne spoke about the possibility of domestic violence cases increasing due to people being asked to remain at home, adding that Chief Fallon had estimated that domestic violence numbers would increase this year. Mr. Kress told the committee that HHS has been working with RESPOND to make sure they have the needed coverage to deal with that. Ms. Connor will facilitate getting a police response, hopefully in time for tomorrow’s City Council meeting.

Councilor McLaughlin commented that he will be putting out information about wearing facemasks and he asked if there were any new updates relative to going outside. Mr. Kress stated that the stay in place advisory put out by Governor Baker remains in place and stressed the importance of staying inside. He realizes that it may be necessary to leave one’s house to get groceries or medications, but he cautioned against making any unnecessary trips since many people may have, and still be able to transmit, the virus even though they may but be asymptomatic and show no symptoms. Asked about following the City of Boston’s lead in implementing a curfew, Mr. Kress stated that it is not being considered here since Somerville hasn’t seen the issues Boston has with regard to groups congregating. Several councilors suggested that the city’s street sweeping program be delayed beyond the April 15th start date to keep people inside their homes and to avoid problems with the lack of parking spaces resulting from people being out of work. Councilor Scott asked that the Administration consider a process to clean troubled areas, e.g., fast-food drive-thrus and Ms. Connor will look into it further. Councilor Scott also asked that a renewed focus be placed on providing COVID-19 information on the city’s website.

Ms. Connor told the committee that additional guidance from the state is needed with regard to when schools might re-open. She also stated that the city is doing its best to acquire masks for the city's front-line people, i.e., medical and public safety personnel, and said that the city is examining ways to organize people to make masks. Ms. Connor also stated that the city’s deadline for the payment of real estate taxes will be delayed and noted that the Housing Department is looking at possibly expanding one of its programs to assist with those payments. She asked that anyone having a problem in this regard, contact the city to work out an arrangement.

Apr 13, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Koh shared an update, beginning with a map of the global spread of the virus. Some data includes that, as of this morning:

There were 1,860,011 cases worldwide, an increase of 579,969 over last week.

The nationwide trend is also increasing, with more than double the number of fatalities as last week.

Massachusetts has the fourth highest number of total cases, as well as the fourth highest per capita.

In Somerville, there have been 258 residents to test positive, with 71 recovered and 1 fatality.

The growth in Somerville is similar to that in Cambridge, as well as in Middlesex County and the state, but Somerville has more residents in the 30-39 age range.

Race and ethnicity data are lacking for many cases, including 68% of those in Somerville.

Somerville Public Schools have distributed 14,209 meal kits and the City Food Pantry served 302 customers through deliveries and pickups and an additional 245 through partnerships with other organizations.

Councilor White asked if data could be provided regarding current cases and how many are self-quarantined, hospitalized, and in critical condition. Director Kress noted that the data are not always accessible by the municipalities. Councilor White also inquired about clusters and the GIS coordinator is beginning to map to determine if there are geographic patterns and that data will be shared when it is available. The contact tracing efforts are underway through HHS to encourage quarantine of individuals who have been exposed. The numbers can easily become overwhelming. Councilor White asked as well if the city was aware of individuals who are self-quarantining and if they need services, and HHS is working to determine this as well, but it is a one-by-one process to contact everyone. Director Kress reminded everyone that sharing this information is voluntary and discouraged overuse, as it is unreliable.

Councilor McLaughlin requested a weekly update of any policy changes to better inform residents. Ms. Koh clarified that the daily numbers reflect when the cases were entered into the system, which is affected by factors such as staff time for data entry, when the report becomes available, and when labs are open.

Director Kress noted that the anticipated peak is approximately 8-10 days from now and encouraged reinforcement of efforts to stay home, and use interventions such as masks and proper hand washing when going out in public is necessary. The City continues to work with state and local partners to address issues such as the homeless populations. Other partners are adding staff to undertake contact tracing efforts, along with city staff and volunteers, and will be using software that will be different from but interface with the MAVEN tracking software. Demographic and language data will also be further researched in the process. Mr. Kress emphasized that providing the data is voluntary, but they will collect as much as they are able. He noted that there is an increase in the need not only for food access, but also other personal supplies.

Councilor White asked if there were inspections or enforcement for establishments who may not be complying to social distancing standards. Mr. Kress will discuss with ISD and the Chamber of Commerce to follow up with establishments about the guidelines. Councilor Hirsch wondered if there were options for individuals to quarantine separate from their families to not spread the virus further. Mr. Kress emphasized that most likely, the entire household should be quarantined, and it is easier to provide services if they remain together. If an individual who has tested positive needs to be isolated, they could be moved to a facility in conjunction with MEMA. Councilor Hirsch asked as well how items and services other than food, such as laundry, are being delivered. Mr. Kress noted that the department is looking for supplies to be provided along with food delivery.

Councilor Hirsch asked if there was information about the sources of the spread of the virus in the city, even if it is not completely evidence-based, to address any major vulnerabilities such as workplaces or living situations that may be hot spots. Mr. Kress emphasized that the best course of action is to stay home and follow public health guidelines, including washing hands frequently.

Councilor Hirsch asked if there were thoughts on why Somerville's younger population shows higher rates of infection, particularly in comparison to Cambridge, which has a similar population distribution. Mr. Kress was unsure if there were particular reasons for that difference. Planning for the next wave is an important consideration and there are many challenges, including testing capacity, which would help with decision making about reopening. The decisions also need to be made in partnership with the region and the state. Somerville has and will continue to be a leader in taking the actions necessary and collecting data to inform the slowing of the spread of the virus.

Councilor Scott wondered who is in touch with households where individuals are affected, and it is the pubic health nurses, with the contact tracing occurring through the nursing staff or the Partners in Health effort. One strategy is to work with members of a household as a unit, to further contain the virus.

Councilor Scott confirmed that Partners in Health brought in 13 new staff members, to complement the work of the city's two public health nurses, nurse navigator, and 17 school nurses.

Councilor Scott asked about tests for the Fire and Police Department personnel and how many personnel have tested positive. Ms. Webber noted that there are currently no positive tests within the Fire Department and no individuals are quarantined. Mr. Kress will research how many tests have been conducted for SPD and SFD staff and provide that information. Individuals are tested whenever there is a potential risk, including exposure, and the individual begins to show symptoms. Councilor Scott suggested that there be comprehensive testing to address the possibility of asymptomatic spread and Mr. Kress noted that the state handles the testing; the city does not get to determine how tests are allocated.

Councilor Ewen-Campen asked what steps are being taken to support elderly residents and staff in the elderly resident buildings. The Council on Aging has worked with the Housing Authority and other buildings to address services as well as PPE, and noted that there are universal backlogs of availability. The National Guard has been to the Little Sisters of the Poor building to perform testing, and there has also been outreach to the VNA. Substantial outreach work has been done to encourage staying home and encourage other ways to connect, such as via video. Mr. Kress is working with the state to expand testing for seniors beyond nursing homes.

Councilor McLaughlin suggested that it is important to know what city staff are infected, particularly essential personnel and first responders. Ms. Webber also clarified that Boston has partnered with the East Boston Health Center to create a drive through testing facility for first responders, but those who are tested must still meet the Department of Public Health criteria (exhibiting symptoms and/or contact with another individual who is presumed or has tested positive).

Apr 21, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

The Chair introduced Ms. Koh to share a presentation that included updated data on Somerville's COVID-19 cases and public safety data. Some recent announcements include the creation of the COVID-19 Relief Fund for small businesses, the Somerville Cares COVID-19 Fund, and that street sweeping is delayed until May 4.

Massachusetts remains ranked third for the number of cases, both total and per population, with over 36,000 cases. The Massachusetts DPH site has added daily data updated and graphics, and can be found at Ms. Koh noted that prior to April 14, there was no data released per municipality, but it will now be released weekly, with updated on Wednesdays. The past week saw an increase of over 14,000 new cases and over 1,000 deaths. The increases are slightly slowing, but average trends are approximately 1,800 cases per day.

Noting that there are fluctuations due to reporting, Ms. Koh shared that Somerville has seen an increase in the past week of 123 new cases, which is a 48% increase, and represents approximately 14 new cases per day. The Somerville Public Schools have now distributed over 21,000 meals over five weeks. Shape Up Pantry also served 693 households in the past week, with the demand increasing steadily each week, and high demand for delivery as individuals isolate or quarantine.

Ms. Koh next shared Police data, noting that the Calls for Service data shared do not reflect crimes, but rather calls that were made to the department. There have been sharp declines in traffic-related calls, but increases in calls for assistance, disturbances, and medical attention. The Fire data reflects similar trends, as total calls are comparable to those of the same time in prior years, but the medical calls related to COVID-19 (measured either by symptoms reported or by known affected locations) requiring PPE and additional safety protocols have increased.

Councilor Clingan wondered if the City was considering creating a heat map of affected locations within Somerville, and Ms. Koh noted that a small group has been working with case location data and there are concerns with inconsistent testing and not wanting to be misleading about the prevalence in certain areas. This will be explored further when the data quality improves. Mr. Kress also shared that this may be a useful case study once the pandemic is over, but expressed concerns about stigma and unreliable data in the moment. Councilor Ewen-Campen asked whether there had been changes to the testing capacity since last week and if there were any further efficiencies to the supply chain, which was a noted concern in the past. Ms. Koh noted that the City is not provided data on negative test results or other hospital-level information. Mr. Kress added that there have been additional tests made available, including increased swabbing beginning today available through the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA).

Mr. Kress recognized the work of staff throughout the City, noting that a few additional orders issued this weekend now allow for grocery purchases through restaurants, and the COVID fund is available through the City's website. He emphasized that social distancing, wearing masks in public, and hand washing remain critical, and commended the community buy-in around these efforts. The Mt. Pleasant Apartments building, which is a privately owned senior facility, demonstrated an increased number of positive cases across the 65 unit building, and the decision was made with the Board of Health to quarantine the building to better understand what is happening and slow the spread. The City is working with the State to bring tests to the residents, and working with the Council on Aging and Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services to ensure that needed services are still delivered to the residents while maintaining safety. There has also been an order for other senior buildings to share their plans, including restrictions to visitors, modifying programming, limiting entrances, removing seating from common areas, allowance of deliveries, and working with partner agencies to address cases within their buildings. These are set to be received within the next 48 hours and will be reviewed. This weekend also saw the de-concentration of shelter residents, and distribution of masks.

Councilor Mbah asked if data were available for the residents who had recovered and whether those individuals are now immune. Mr. Kress noted that 135 individuals have been identified as recovered, but there are no definite answers as to whether there is immunity. Recovery is measured through improvement of symptoms, specifically fever, to a level where medication is not required. Councilor Mbah also asked whether there were plans for a campaign to encourage use of masks, and Ms. Webber shared that the Communications Department is sharing guidance about when and how to use masks, and elaborated that there have been many questions regarding the administration's advisory on face masks. The goal is for it to be a phased roll-out, noting that masks have been in short supply, and that the policy, including the possibility of mandatory masks in certain spaces, is still being evaluated. Due to supply chain concerns, it does not appear that the City will be able to provide masks to the public at large, but prioritizing vulnerable populations is an important aim. Approximately 3,500 face masks were distributed to seniors today. Councilor Ewen-Campen suggested that certain locations and certain activities should be prioritized for where to make masks mandatory, and Ms. Webber noted that this is part of the evaluation underway.

Councilor Niedergang shared concerns that employees in grocery and other stores are not wearing masks and many runners are not either, and also wondered if face coverings other than masks are sufficient. Ms. Webber cautioned against putting too much emphasis on any particular study, as the virus is so new and the information is continually evolving. Mr. Kress reminded that the emphasis is less on the covering itself and more on the way the face is covered (i.e. the nose and mouth should be covered with no gaps). There are tutorials for doing this properly with materials such as a bandana. Councilor Rossetti added that there has been recent guidance from the Attorney General's office about local mandates on this issue.

Councilor Scott noted that many people in the community have been working on supply chain issues who could potentially help the City procure supplies if that is what is holding the administration back from making them a requirement. Councilor Ballantyne asked for clarification about whether the administration would provide masks to all residents and how enforcement would be conducted and by whom. Ms. Webber noted that these are all questions that the administration has as it considers implementing a mandatory order. It is unrealistic to supply masks to all residents, but ensuring access for vulnerable populations will be a priority.

Councilor White expressed a concern that if action is not taken, there may be a high price to pay in increased infections. He urged caution, as the community is dense and social distancing has proven difficult in some cases, in particular with runners. Chair Davis added that the social distancing messaging should be emphasized, particularly targeted toward runners, as that is just as critical as masks.

Councilor McLaughlin noted an additional concern of visitors at senior buildings, and also asked specifically about the caretakers at the Mt. Pleasant facility and whether they have been tested. Mr. Kress noted that they are being tracked and monitored. This staff monitoring is included in the directive for plans to be submitted for all senior facilities. Councilor Ewen-Campen asked about internet accessibility concerns and Ms. Connor noted that the Internet Task Force has drafted recommendations, one of which is that setting up a municipal broadband network is prohibitively expensive and also presented significant legal challenges. In light of that, some recommendations included a dig-once policy, which would have an underground fiber link installed during other construction projects. The next step is for someone with technical expertise to review and prioritize the recommendations. After surveying the School population, there are approximately 450 families (about 15%) without internet access. A combination of Verizon mobile hot-spot devices and offering the Comcast internet essential service are in place to fill this gap. Over 100 families have signed up for the Comcast service and the hot-spot devices will be distributed to families who are not eligible for that service. Additionally, the Somerville Public Schools have loaned 1,091 Chromebooks to students from grades 3-12 and 117 Kindle Fire tablets for Pre-K-2 students. For any students in need, requests should be sent to Jeff Curley, and other residents can reach out to the City through 311.

Councilor Hirsch asked if there was a timeline for making decisions about summer programming. Ms. Connor will continue to work with staff to determine an answer, noting that this is an important issue for many families.

Apr 27, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Koh began with an update of COVID-19 case trends and local data. Some key dates include that earlier today, the City issued an order requiring face coverings in public spaces, to begin on April 29, and on April 24 applications opened for the Somerville Small Business COVID-19 Relief Fund (

Globally, both total cases and deaths have increased by over 20% in the last week. The United States has seen a similar increase in total cases, with fatalities increasing by closer to 30%. Massachusetts has the fourth highest number of total cases, and ranks third in cases by population. The state has almost 55,000 total cases and 2,900 fatalities. The Department of Public Health (DPH) adjusted case numbers on April 24 to account for a reporting backlog from a testing company. The number of tests performed is increasing weekly.

The city and town level data has only been reported for the previous two weeks, and only reflects reported positive cases and may not show the total prevalence of COVID-19 within a community. Somerville's case rate per 100,000 residents increased from 365.83 on April 14 to 542.21 on April 22. Some surge models show that the state is likely past its peak resource use. As of 10:20am today (4/27) 532 residents have tested positive, which represents 72 new cases since April 21; 182 residents have recovered; and there have been 6 fatalities.

The Somerville Public Schools meal kits have served approximately 25,000 meals. Weekly totals have decreased from previous weeks, with demand still strongest on Fridays. Shape Up Pantry has relocated to the Kennedy School for additional capacity, and has served 874 households (181 since last week).

The public safety snapshot highlights domestic disturbances. Ms. Koh Emphasized that calls for service reflect initial unverified calls, and do not reflect whether a crime was committed. Domestic Disturbance calls spiked in April, 2020 (to-date). The past four weeks (3/29 - 4/25) total was 43% higher than the prior 4 weeks. Reports of Domestic Aggravated or Simple Assault increased from 6 incidents to 13 in the same four-week periods. However, 13 reports is the annual average and 6 is the lowest four-week total of the year. For the Fire Department, last week (4/19-4/25) saw 44 COVID-19 related medical calls (responses which require PPE and additional safety protocols), which was the highest number of COVID-19 medical calls in a week.

Councilor White asked whether the fatalities were in individuals with co-morbidities and asked what age range they were in, and Mr. Kress confirmed all were above 60 years old and did also have other underlying health issues. He clarified further that the address given at the time of testing is what is counted in this data. If students have a permanent address elsewhere, they may not be included in these counts. Councilor Ballantyne asked for further information about the domestic violence incidents for the previous three years for comparison. Ms. Koh will forward the request to the crime analyst. Councilor Hirsch asked if there was insight into deaths as a percentage of cases, and Ms. Koh noted that both the cases and fatalities are relatively low and the sample is too small to draw any significant conclusions, and added that the Police Department is monitoring deaths in homes to determine if there are others that may be related to COVID-19 that have not been otherwise reported. Councilor Mbah asked about how the curve has been flattened, and Ms. Koh elaborated that there is not enough information to definitively draw any conclusions yet, and emphasized that the models were related to the peak of resources rather than the peak of total cases, but the decrease of new cases in the past week is a positive sign. Mr. Kress stressed further that there is not universal testing, and many people may be infected and asymptomatic. The modeling uses the best data available, but it is far from perfect.

Mr. Kress shared an update on Mt. Pleasant, and the results are beginning to come back and the department is reaching out to residents as quickly as the results are coming in to provide updates on status. In partnership with Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), 3,500 tests have been made available and testing began today for all Somerville residents, regardless of symptoms, immigration status, or insurance. Councilor Clingan clarified that proof of Somerville residency will be required. Ms. Connor added that anyone with concerns about documentation should reach out to SomerVIVA or the Mayor's office, as documentation should not be a barrier to testing. The goal is to better understand the spread of the virus within the community. The testing is currently taking place by appointment, which can be made by calling 617-665-2928. This test is the swab testing, not the test for the antibody. It will take up to five days to receive results. Another partnership with Volunteers of America and Veterans was announced today, which is a monitoring system for vital signs such as heart rate, temperature, oxidation levels, and is non-invasive.

Further, the Chelsea-Revere Collaborative has assisted in securing hotel rooms for individuals who need to isolate. There is assistance getting individuals to the facility, healthcare through MGH and meals will be provided. This is only for those who have tested positive and need a safe environment for isolation. The City will make the referral to the regional partnership. Finally, there is a new order mandating face coverings, which follows the CDC guidelines and underscores the importance of protecting others and ourselves while living in a dense community making social distancing difficult. Ms. Webber clarified that this was an executive order, rather than an ordinance.

Councilor Scott asked how many tests were administered each day. Mr. Kress shared that it is currently 65-75 and the CHA anticipates doubling that. There is also a goal to open a second site within a week or two to increase the number of tests that can be administered each day. Councilor Scott noted that this information should be shared through the City's COVID-19 page.

Ms. Webber clarified the language in the order, which states that anyone age 2 or older is required to wear a mask, noting that the administration appreciates the difficulty for small children, but the age is based on guidance provided by the CDC. There are no plans for strong enforcement action in these cases. Councilor Rossetti expressed appreciation for this important step in protecting the city's residents. Councilor Mbah encouraged a system to make masks available to those who do not have the means to acquire them, and also suggested that the information needs to be made available in multiple languages and communication directed toward those residents. He noted as well that demographic information about any fines that are issued for non-compliance should be tracked and shared. Ms. Webber noted that Police are carrying disposable masks for those who are members of vulnerable populations who need them. Due to the limited supply, there are not currently plans to distribute them to all residents. The goal of the order is to encourage voluntary compliance, rather than to focus on enforcement. The Police Department's resources should not be re-directed away from existing emergencies. The fine exists to allow for enforcement in the event of willful disregard of the order. The communication was translated into five languages, and shared through the liaisons to the immigrant populations, as well as through the usual channels of website, alerts, and social media. Chair Davis also asked if there would be tracking of Police's encounters related to the mask order, including if a citation is not issued, and further encouraged data tracking with demographic information. Ms. Webber will research what metrics will be captured. Councilor Ewen-Campen added that he has placed an order for a weekly update of the enforcement of the mask order.

Councilor Ballantyne asked for clarification of an executive order vs an ordinance and Ms. Connor elaborated that an executive order comes from the Mayor and in this case the Board of Health and is not reviewed and passed by the City Council, as an ordinance would be. Once an ordinance is passed, it remains in effect until changed. An executive order takes effect immediately, but only remains in effect for the duration of the state of emergency.

Councilor McLaughlin asked if there is peer reviewed data available for residents who want to better understand the science behind the order regarding masks. Mr. Kress noted that the City has been using the CDC's guidelines and recommendations. Councilor Niedergang mentioned that there has been a lot of feedback regarding the age at which masks must we worn and shared several messages encouraging the age to start at 5 or possibly older, as younger children lack the control to keep a mask on and it is unrealistic and creates more challenges for parents. Ms. Connor noted that the age came from the CDC guidelines on masks, and added that enforcement will account for the acknowledgement of this difficulty. Chair Davis added that the message that enforcement will not be taken for children may not be sufficient for members of particular communities, and encouraged a change to the language to account for these inequities. Ms. Connor will review and consider all of the feedback. Mr. Kress also commented that the goal of masks is to slow the spread of the virus, and children can still spread it. This action is being taken for public health reasons, and steps need to be taken to normalize wearing masks despite the challenges, much like with wearing seatbelts and bicycle helmets.

Councilor Hirsch asked if there are recommendations for socializing while social distancing, particularly as the weather gets nicer. Mr. Kress expressed understanding that social distancing is difficult, but implored everyone to maintain the momentum and continue the progress that has been made and discouraged gatherings, as it is too easy to become lax in distancing measures. He encouraged continuing to focus on ways to connect virtually. Councilor Hirsch also noted that there are efforts for residents to police others and it is causing tension among neighbors. Councilor Scott shared the concern that enforceability will embolden aggressive behavior, and could lead to a strain on police resources. He further noted that the CDC guidelines have been helpful, but the actions of cities can lead these guidelines, and it is worth conducting an independent investigation and researching what can be best for the city. Councilor Scott also asked Mr. Kress to work with CHA to explain the check-in procedure for testing (particularly for those without a state issued photo ID) and communicate it as much as possible, to truly encourage all residents to be tested.

Councilor McLaughlin asked if enforcement will be prioritized in particular areas by individuals other than police, such as grocery store managers. Ms. Webber will include this in the conversation on enforcement measures with the Police Department. Councilor McLaughlin also asked if there was a timeline around the phased rollout of testing and when it will be available for bikers and walkers. Mr. Kress noted that CHA is working to develop a structure to ensure safety ASAP, and a walk/bike-up facility is also being sought in East Somerville, with the hopes of having a location identified within a week.

Councilor Ballantyne wondered if there was any further consideration of the idea to open streets exclusively to pedestrians and cyclists. Ms. Connor noted that there were concerns about the messaging and of using public safety resources. Now that the stay-at-home order has been underway, there is more research around ways to share streets and actively working to find an approach that may work. Councilor Ballantyne asked as well about whether there are benchmarks developed to determine when measures will be relaxed. Ms. Connor noted that there is much discussion about what benchmarks to utilize to relax restrictions on movement, but none have been determined yet. Importantly, there will be a regional approach to determine what works for the area, and the best available data will be used to inform the decisions.

Councilor White asked about the enforcement for the mask order and whether there would be an appeal process for fines and what forms will be issued. Ms. Webber noted that the penalties are civil penalties, and would follow the traditional appeal process for any assessed fines. Councilor White suggested that there be a prioritization for enforcement, such as focusing on those working with food. Ms. Webber noted that Inspectional Services will be enforcing the order with respect to essential businesses and they are developing an enforcement plan to address safety and public health concerns.

May 4, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Koh shared some key dates since the last meeting, including: May 1st, the Governor announced a state-wide face covering order, to go in effect 5/6/20; on April 30th, it was announced that City buildings would remain closed until at least Monday, May 18 and street sweeping is delayed to May 18th; and on April 28th, the Governor announced an extension of the closure of non-essential business to May 18th and the Somerville Cares fund application was released. It can be found here:

Ms. Koh also shared trend data, noting that globally, there has been an 18% increase in cases over the last week. In the United States, this increase is 24.5%, with an increase in deaths of 30%. Massachusetts is the third ranking state for both total cases and cases by population, with over 68,000 cases (an increase of almost 24% since last week) and just over 4,000 deaths (an increase of 38%). The hospitalizations in Massachusetts show that there has been a plateau, rather than a peak and then a rapid decrease.

As of April 29th, Somerville had 748.64 cases per 100,000 residents, an increase from 542.21 on April 22nd. As of 9:00am on Monday 5/4/20: 640 residents tested positive; 267 recovered; and there have been 9 fatalities. The week of April 5th had the highest number of new cases in Somerville and the number of new cases by week have been steadily declining since then. Further, the number of positive cases may increase as testing becomes more widely available.

Somerville Public Schools have distributed 4,209 meals (breakfast and lunch) during the week of 4/27-5/1, for a total of 29,202 meals distributed in 7 weeks. There is a continuing trend of high demand on Fridays. The City of Somerville Emergency Food Pantry has moved to the Kennedy School and received 21,000 pounds of food from Greater Boston Food Bank through Food for Free. This is an increase of 4,000 pounds compared to prior weeks, which can be accommodated due to the new location, in addition to added capacity to provide diapers, toiletries, and other personal care items in addition to groceries. They have served 846 households (approximately 2,477 individuals), with the number of new referrals by week remaining steady at approximately 300 referrals per week.

The Police Department's calls for service (which reflect unverified calls and do not necessarily represent a crime) data have increased, primarily related to larcenies. The nice weather did not increase total calls, but included more reports of parties. In the last week, the Fire Department responded to 31 COVID-19 related medical calls, which is 13 fewer than the prior week.

Mr. Kress shared that the community testing initiative is separated into three groups: CHA patients, first responders, and the community. The department's access is only to the resident data. Almost 30% of residents have taken advantage of the testing, 76% of whom identify as white. There is outreach to residents, particularly in immigrant communities. A name and date of birth can be provided as verification if no photo ID is available. The food pantry efforts are targeted to those who are isolated or quarantined, and they are seeking additional drivers who are able to work consistent shifts. There has been some funding received from DPH for the work, and the department is working on a budget that will alleviate the burden on city funds.

Councilor Strezo asked about the timeline and requirements for volunteers, and Mr. Kress noted that up to 15 additional drivers are sought and a CORI is required, which will take 3-5 days to process. Interested individuals can reach out to: Councilor Mbah asked whether there was an anticipated increase of cases in May and Mr. Kress noted that it is unknown, but could be affected by individuals failing to comply with social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing, and emphasized the importance of these practices. Councilor Mbah asked as well about data on the number of masks distributed and Ms. Koh noted that there are several efforts in place and she will research to provide more information. There have not been any tickets issued, and it does appear that most residents are complying with the requirement. Mr. Kress elaborated that there are many resources for making masks at home, and efforts to distribute masks through the Police and Fire Departments. Health and Human Services is focusing on distributing to those in shelters and the homeless populations. The Council on Aging has distributed over 4,000 masks in senior buildings. Councilor Rossetti added that she has received feedback from many seniors who are grateful.

Councilor Scott asked if there were tasks other than driving that volunteers could be used for, and wondered if there was a location where the information for volunteers could be found. Mr. Kress noted that the needs are constantly changing, and drivers for food deliveries are the priority, but the department can try to share more information online. The tasks occur daily, but the same individual does not have to participate every day. There is a shift at noon for packing, and a 4pm shift for sending the supplies out. Mr. Kress added that it is imperative that volunteers register in advance in order to allow for proper planning and compliance with social distancing requirements. Councilor Scott also asked for more specific information about the increase in larcenies and whether they involved theft from grocery stores. Ms. Koh will connect with the crime analyst to provide that information. Ms. Webber noted that the mask enforcement will be reviewed next week, as the grace period will have expired. The administration plans to provide the number of citations issued and the associated amounts, as well as the location.

Councilor McLaughlin expressed concern about the communication of policies and knowledge of the availability of testing, particularly to first responders. He also shared concern about addressing bias in implementation. Ms. Webber noted that memoranda have been distributed to all members of the Police Department, and all should be aware of the policies and enforcement mechanisms. The department has been instructed to treat these issues with education and compassion. Councilor Niedergang shared that two letters were received from community leaders expressing concerns about implicit bias and differential enforcement of the mask rule. He also asked that the administration be prepared to respond to these concerns by next week. Councilor Ballantyne noted that she spoke with two community police officers who were carrying masks and were aware of the order. Councilor Clingan asked how the Governor's order affects the order already issued by the City. Ms. Webber clarified that municipalities can impose more stringent requirements, but cannot be more lenient. The Governor's order does include children from 2-5 years old, and defers enforcement to municipalities.

Councilor Ballantyne asked if there was data on the number of calls that were from seniors and whether there has been an increase and Ms. Webber will research whether that can be provided. Councilor Ballantyne also wondered if there was any update on the feedback that was shared in the previous meeting relative to the minimum age for requirement of face masks and on opening roads to pedestrians. Ms. Webber noted that there are no current plans to modify the order but it will continue to be evaluated as circumstances change. Ms. Connor shared that the mobility team is developing a plan to roll out roadway changes, and are working with the Police Department. The plan should be ready in a week or two.

Councilor Niedergang expressed a concern that citation sheets do not collect race and ethnicity data. Ms. Webber elaborated that the citation booklets were recently updated, and require approval from the Supreme Judicial Court to amend. Councilor Niedergang also asked if there was guidance or instruction for those in vehicles such as convertibles or motorcycles without masks. Ms. Connor clarified that the order does not extend to vehicles but Ms. Webber will consult with the Law Department for guidance. Councilor Niedergang inquired as well whether there is a team in place to address re-opening and what dialogue is taking place with the state. Ms. Connor noted that a team is looking at internal City policies, but any plans will be developed in collaboration with surrounding communities. The Mayor has been in conversations with surrounding cities' mayors and is in contact with the state's task force.

Councilor White wondered if contact tracing identified any clusters within the city, and Mr. Kress noted that the only large clusters have been seen in one independent living home, but there is a concern about spreading within households/addresses. This highlights why isolation and quarantine are so critical. Additional tests will also be crucial to understanding how the virus is spreading in the community. Councilor Ewen-Campen clarified that the 3,500 tests received must be expended before additional tests can be received.

Councilor Ewen-Campen noted that a better bailout and more sources of revenue are imperative and wondered how the city can put pressure on the state for municipalities to access any funds that are received by the Federal Reserve. He cautioned the need to push back against moves toward austerity. Ms. Connor added that MAPC and the regional mayors are advocating for this at the state level.

May 11, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Noonan and Mr. Kress presented the latest updates on the COVID-19 situation. The city is continuing its investigation into contact tracing to help identify possible clusters of the virus. Community testing is on-going and the city is trying to find a 2nd location, preferably indoors, to expand testing capabilities. Over 1,200 tests have been performed at the Cambridge Health Alliance facility, and of that group, 51 positive cases were found, with the majority of those being asymptomatic. Cases of the virus have been found in the city’s 3 zip codes and increases in the number of cases is expected due to the increase in testing. Mr. Kress said that it took about a week and a half, including some days that testing was cancelled due to weather, to perform the 1,200 tests. He again urged that everyone be tested and said that the city still has the capacity to do additional testing each day.

Councilors Rossetti and Ballantyne commented on the number of cases by age group and asked if the city has plans to get this information out to public. Mr. Kress replied that staff is trying to find ways to do that and to determine what to share and how to share it with the high number groups, to encourage the following of the city’s Health and Human Services’ guidelines. Mr. Kress told the members that he does not have the data of how many people were tested to arrive at the number of case counts by age but he has asked the state to provide it, adding that it may not be available. Councilor Rossetti asked that the City Council be kept informed of efforts in this regard.

Chief Fallon reported that the Police Department (SPD) was asked to assist with compliance of the mayor’s Executive Order regarding the wearing of masks. The SPD distributed over 2,000 masks to the public. The SPD has set up permanent locations for mask distribution in the east and west ends of city, as well as at high traffic locations and along the bike path. Four officers per shift have been assigned to exclusively distribute masks. Chief Fallon said anyone who can’t go out due to not having a mask, should contact the SPD and one would be delivered to them. The Chief commented that this is about residents looking out for residents and that is was stressed to officers that compliance is voluntary. Councilor Rossetti asked Chief Fallon about the apparent conflict in his statement about voluntary compliance, noting that the mayor isn’t going to change his Executive Order. He clarified his remarks by saying that wearing a mask isn’t voluntary, as there is a fine for violating the order, but he believes that compliance won’t be achieved by issuing fines, but rather through educating the public. Officers have been instructed to be empathetic in cases involving young children. Councilor Rossetti stated that she agreed with Chief Fallon’s remarks and that she supports the Executive Order, except for its fining aspect. Councilor McLaughlin commented that he disagrees with the enforcement aspect because it raises too many questions, so he would like officers to use discretion and only ticket when absolutely necessary. Councilor Clingan asked about a public housing enforcement overlap, i.e., who is providing guidance to the Housing Authority Police on the executive order and do they have the same authority as SPD officers in this situation? Chief Fallon replied that the scenario hasn't been thought out fully and will need to be examined further. He will speak to the Housing Authority Police Chief in the morning.

Mr. Kress is encouraging everyone to be tested so that a better understanding of how widespread the virus is may be determined. He said that although no antibody tests have been approved yet by the FDA, the city is exploring to see what is available. Chair Davis asked how many tests the city has and Mr. Kress said that the city continues to ask for additional tests to keep up with the city's capacity to perform testing, and so far, it’s fair to say that our supply is keeping pace, adding that Somerville is leading the way in testing in the state. Responding to a question form Councilor Ewen-Campen, Mr. Kress said that he did not have data on the number of original cases in the city that lead to the number of cases seen here? Councilor Ewen-Campen commented that the current outbreak in the city could have been launched by a small number of cases, and going forward, there may be many more cases, so strict adherence to guidelines is imperative. Councilors Ballantyne and White asked what was being done to encourage seniors to get tested and Mr. Kress said that the Council on Aging is communicating with the thousands of seniors in its database. Councilor White poke about construction during this time and asked that clear guidance be put on the city's website to advise what is and is not allowed. Ms. Webber stated that a phased plan was laid out for large projects to move forward, commencing on June 1st.

Councilor McLaughlin reported that the quarantine has been lifted from Pleasant Street senior housing building. He asked what is being done to test first responders and how is the message getting to them to get tested? Chief Fallon replied that the information is given to officers and if an officer tests positive, that officer is sent to personnel for guidance on how to deal with the virus. Mr. Kress added that testing is available for first responders at Somerville Hospital, but that data from those tests doesn't get compiled in the city's testing data. With regard to the higher numbers in the 02145 zip code, Mr. Kress said that the city is working with the immigrant community and using the proper languages to assist in contact tracing. There are challenges in getting information to those communities since some undocumented people are hesitant to be tested, so they're being told that the info will only be used for testing purposes.

Chief Fallon stated that he would provide information on the number of SPD officer tested and Councilor Scott asked why, if the city wants get everyone tested, was a directive not put out to have officers tested. Chief Fallon said that the CDC is not recommending that first responders be tested, but he will check with the Personnel and Law Departments, since he’s not sure if it's legal to order officers to be tested. Councilor Scott asked for the number of officers tested, once that information becomes available as well as the number of Fire Department personnel who have been tested. Mr. Kress will check with the Chief Fire Engineer for the information.

Mr. Kress spoke about the quarantine protocol explaining that people testing positive are asked to self-isolate in a safe location. If a safe location is not available, the city has access to a hotel and medical services outside of the city. So far, 2 people from Somerville have used this hotel. He noted that there have been mixed reactions to it as it’s not an easy stay and provides no amenities. In cases where a person testing positive is sharing a domicile or is in close contact with someone, that person is also asked to quarantine and is usually tested the same day. Those affected individuals are provided with information on how to get additional support and/or resources. Councilor Ewen-Campen said that it’s critical for all city staff who interact with the public in the capacity of their jobs to have clear guidelines about what to do if exposed. Chief Fallon noted that the city has worked with Tufts to provide housing for first responders and Mr. Kress said that guidelines have been developed with the Personnel Department about when to be tested. Councilor Scott commented about a restaurant in Cambridge being recently converted to an antibody testing facility and asked Mr. Kress to look into the situation as it is most likely unlicensed and unregulated. Mr. Kress told the members that the city is working with the Immigrant Services Unit, homeless coalitions and women’s shelters as well as other shelters. The city is also doing outreach with homeless individuals on the streets and has been able to keep up with the homeless population and get them the services they need and to get them tested.

Responding to questions from the members, Ms. Webber said that the executive order for wearing masks remains the same and it doesn't make sense to change it now. She also reported that Ms. Connor is working on the idea of expanded sidewalks and road sharing and that the administration is open to the idea, but a decision is probably a few weeks away. Councilor Ballantyne commented that Mr. Rawson said last week that information on this would be available today. Ms. Webber is not aware of that. Councilor Strezo asked about the possibility of the city assisting with funding some supplies for mask manufacturers and Ms. Webber said that she is not aware that the city could do this, but will look into it to see what can be done to spur more mask making. She will also find out if the city has a backup of masks and report back. Councilor Ballantyne spoke about the 950 housing units for vulnerable populations in Ward 7 and asked if the city has heard of any concerns regarding their need for masks or supplies. Mr. Kress replied that the city is working with the Council on Aging to get masks out to senior residents and will do its best to meet the needs of anyone out there.

AYES:Lance L. Davis, Jesse Clingan, Jefferson Thomas ("J.T.") Scott, Ben Ewen-Campen, Mark Niedergang, Katjana Ballantyne, William A. White Jr., Mary Jo Rossetti, Wilfred N. Mbah, Kristen Strezo
ABSENT:Matthew McLaughlin
May 18, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Noonan shared some key dates since the previous meeting, which include: May 18, the Governor announced phased reopening plan; May 15, it was announced that the citywide state of emergency will continue beyond May 18th, and the suspension of city sponsored or permitted events will extend through the end of 2020, and a mobile testing unit was announced; and on May 13, it was announced that City buildings will remain closed through June 1st.

Global trends show that the world is at 4.7 million cases and 315,000 deaths. In the United States, 1.4 million cases and 88,000 deaths have been reported. Massachusetts ranks third in the number of total cases, and fourth in the cases per population. Massachusetts has, however, seen fewer hospitalizations at a rate of 3% (down from 4% and 5% in previous weeks). The rate of cases for the 80+ age group is more than twice as much as any other age group, with an average age for all cases in the state at 53. Somerville, as of 10:40 am on Monday, 5/18/20, has 787 residents who have tested positive, with 499 recovered and 20 fatalities. The City's 02145 zip code consistently has the highest case counts, though this does not take into account differences in population size between the zip codes. All zip codes show total cases decreasing.

The Cambridge Health Alliance community testing data has a rate of 4.5% of positive cases out of 1,615 total tests administered (this only includes Somerville residents who get tested at a CHA community testing site and are not CHA patients or first responders. Somerville Public Schools distributed 4,786 meals and 5,784 face masks.

The Police Department distributed 5,021 masks, with 416 total non-compliant individuals between May 6 and May 17, and noted that a significant amount of the non-compliance was due to masks being worn improperly. Individuals were advised without issue. The Fire Department saw 18 COVID-19 related medical calls last week, which is 10 fewer than the prior week.

Mr. Kress shared that community testing will be expanded and the Department is working with the Somerville Housing Authority to test residents in their properties, as well as other senior facilities. Public Health masters and doctoral students will be assisting communities throughout the Commonwealth with providing services and collecting data.

Ms. Webber added that the shared streets plan is being evaluated to also provide expanded sidewalk space for restaurants, curbside pickup for retail businesses that are not currently operating, as well as mobility for pedestrians and cyclists. A phased approach is being prepared and will be presented to the City Council.

Councilor Strezo asked about child inflammatory disease linked to COVID-19 and wondered whether information is being shared with Somerville parents. Mr. Kress noted that DPH is monitoring this and not many cases have been reported in Massachusetts. All physicians have been instructed to report cases where the symptoms are demonstrated and DPH will be collecting that data. Councilor Ewen-Campen expressed concern about re-opening, noting that there is still community transmission (i.e. cases are not yet at zero), and asked whether there is information about how the community transmission is occurring. Mr. Kress shared the re-opening concern, noting that contact tracing efforts are underway but it is not easy to discern how the transmission is taking place. Hand washing, social distancing, and wearing masks have slowed the spread in Somerville, however we must remain vigilant and continue to follow these practices. Limiting group interactions is also critical, and Mr. Kress urged caution, even once activities are allowed. Councilor Ewen-Campen suggested that the contact tracing data needs to be shared, and until the spread can be better understood, significant precautions should remain in place.

Councilor Ballantyne wondered whether any shared streets plans would be implemented over the holiday weekend, as warm weather is expected. Ms. Connor agreed that this does pose a concern for social distancing and mask protocols, but there are not specific plans for shared streets to be implemented by this weekend. Councilor Ballantyne asked as well about how the City is prioritizing testing for the senior buildings, and how many tests the mobile testing unit can administer each day. Mr. Kress noted that the smaller buildings will be tested first, as it will be quicker to contact and schedule all of the residents, and then it will be dependent on staff availability. One to two buildings can be completed per day, depending on the size of the buildings.

Councilor Mbah asked about the impact on childcare and Ms. Connor noted that according to the Governor's plan, it will continue to be limited to emergency needs (for essential workers). The current capacity for the essential childcare facilities is only about 35%, so there is room for expansion. Councilor Mbah also asked if the Somerville-specific data could include cases by zip code as a rate, rather than total numbers and Ms. Noonan will look into that for next week. Councilor White asked about what the plans are for testing seniors who are not living in senior buildings, as many have been cautioned not to leave their homes. Mr. Kress noted that information about testing was shared at the town hall meeting with seniors, and it is safe to be tested at the drive through (or walk-up) facilities. Appointments can be made by calling 617-665-2928. For those who are homebound, the individuals are encouraged to work with their caregivers, and CHA does also offer programs working with the homebound. Councilor White also noted the prevalence of gloves as litter and suggested that there should be receptacles at any facility that is open to the public. Councilor White also encourage that entities should be required to provide hand sanitizer dispensers as part of the protocols required for re-opening. Councilor White also noted that vehicles are speeding and not observing crosswalks more than previously and encouraged stricter enforcement. Ms. Webber noted that one of the considerations of the shared streets plan is to mitigate the speeding throughout the city.

Councilor Scott asked if there was further information about testing of first responders. Mr. Kress noted that the data is not being provided to or collected by HHS, though many first responders are being tested, and all have been encouraged to do so. There is a special number provide to allow for immediate appointments for first responders. Councilor Scott also asked whether Phase 1 businesses are included in the expanded definition of essential, to allow employees access to emergency childcare. Ms. Connor noted that this does not appear to be addressed and she will raise it with the Lieutenant Governor. Councilor Scott also raised the issues with access to unemployment, as well as potential employee concerns about safety. Ms. Connor noted that it will be a complaint-driven system, and employees can file a complaint with the state if there are businesses that are re-opening with potentially unsafe conditions. Somerville will evaluate how the City can aid employees in those situations and not rely solely on the state.

Councilor McLaughlin expressed concern about the lack of diversity in the food selection, noting that many populations are not accustomed to what is being provided. Ms. Webber noted that the City, in partnership with the United Way, launched the Somerville Cares Fund, which focuses on vulnerable individuals and families. Over 700 applications were received, with estimated requests totaling $1.3 million, and $250,000 has been raised. One of the items that this fund provides is grocery gift cards, which both allows the individuals to choose the foods they prefer, as well as reduce demand on the food pantry. She encouraged sharing of the fund information widely. Councilor Ballantyne added that the Somerville Public Schools are focusing on non-perishable basics, but have tried to consider cultural preferences with produce.

Chair Davis shared the highlights on the City's plan for re-opening, which will include non-essential construction and high-priority preventative medical care beginning today, and other medical and curbside retail beginning on May 25. All additional re-opening steps will remain on temporary hold as the City considers what is safe and reasonable. Chair Davis inquired about specific information regarding the construction allowances, and whether it is only City projects, or private projects as well. Ms. Connor noted that the intention is just City projects in this phase, with the exception of emergency private projects that have been allowed to continue. Councilor Ewen-Campen noted that private construction is contemplated for phase 2, beginning June 1.

May 26, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Noonan shared the weekly situation update, noting that some key dates since the previous meeting include: May 23, when the City announced a Shared Streets pilot along with other measures to facilitate social distancing; and May 21, the City set the official schedule for the first phase of reopening.

Somerville case data shows that as of 11:15 am on Monday, May 25, 858 residents tested positive, with 628 recovered and 23 fatalities. Since that time, there have been additional cases, and an additional 2 residents have died. The rate of cases by zip code indicates that 02145 consistently has the highest case counts and rates. Additional data shows that of the 23 deaths in the City, all were individuals above 50 years of age, with 6 deaths in the 70-79 category and 12 deaths in the 80 or Above category. The Somerville Cares Fund has thus far raised $276,000. There have been 893 total submissions, with approximately $1.3M requested. Of the requests, 426 were deemed urgent, and 259 were high priority.

Somerville Public Schools distributed 4,808 meals (breakfast and lunch) during the week of May 18 through May 22. This demand was comparable to the prior week. Additionally, 2,544 face masks were distributed (318 bags with 8 masks each). The Emergency Food Pantry served 671 households (approximately 2,450 individuals), and reported beginning to see decrease in requests, with households asking to be removed from the delivery list as they are finding other ways to meet their needs.

Mask distribution, as of May 24, has included a total of 47,542 masks distributed to departments, with the Immigrant Services Unit (ISU) receiving 4,000 masks, Food Distribution Sites receiving 12,464 masks, the Police Department receiving 16,850 masks, the Council on Aging with 5,722 masks, and 506 masks distributed among other miscellaneous departments.

Highlights from the Police Department include officers noting groups practiced social distancing on Memorial Day weekend; bilingual officers connected with Portuguese and Spanish-speaking residents; there was some confusion due to first phase of reopening, and parties were advised. The department has distributed 9,187 masks since May 6, with approximately 647 non-compliant.

The Fire Department saw 17 COVID-19 related medical calls in the week from May 17 through May 23, which is one fewer than the prior week. There were 278 COVID-19 related medical calls as of May 25, and last week had an average of 2.25 COVID-19 related calls per day.

Mr. Kress added that community testing has served over 3,000 residents. This does not include CHA patients or first responders. The rate of positive cases is approximately 3.9%. The mobile site is also traveling to senior facilities, and is exploring additional locations in order to reach more vulnerable communities. The location of the lab is now in-house at CHA. Mr. Kress also thanked the participants in the community town hall meetings and noted that the data will be used to inform the careful strategy for re-opening. There are also regional partnerships to ensure that residents remain protected.

Mr. Proakis explained that the Mobility Strategy is a holistic approach to mobility in the City. The context for considering this model includes that: transportation is a basic need, particularly for essential workers, access to grocery stores and other essential services, and opportunities for movement and fresh air for physical and mental health; many Somerville residents need to walk and bike to make essential trips; our streets are experiencing significantly reduced vehicle volumes; and vehicle speeds are elevated. Importantly, utilizing low-cost modes frees up stretched budgets for food, housing, and other necessities. Rethinking public spaces to focus on safety and public health, while balancing the needs of residents and small businesses, led to recommendations including: 1. Make pedestrian signals “hands-free”; 2. Widen sidewalks and manage curb space to support physical distancing; 3. Create a network of shared streets for essential trip-making. There will be continued evaluation of use of parking spaces for contactless pickup and finding outdoor space for dining as restaurants begin to reopen.

Mr. Rawson elaborated on the strategy on converting traffic signals to hands-free. This is in use in Cambridge and many other cities. It is intended to reduce the touching of surfaces, as well as the inclination to cross against the signal to avoid touching the button. The first phase of the pilot is completed, and signage has been introduced, which indicates that the signal does not require pushing of the button. Mr. Rawson continued to explain that curb management is a group of strategies, national and international best practices, with the two components ideal for Somerville to include pick-up/drop-off zones (15 minutes parking) at existing metered parking spaces, and sidewalk widening where feasible to provide safe queueing space.

The Town of Brookline has employed temporary sidewalk widening through decreasing travel lanes and utilizing traffic cones to indicate walkable areas. The proposal for Somerville is to employ a pilot on Bow Street in Union Square that would convert angled parking and allow for additional queueing space. This minimizes the reduction of parking and relies primarily on cones. This location will be followed by Somerville Avenue, by reducing that to one travel lane in order to preserve parking while creating the enhanced sidewalk.

The third strategy is a network of interconnected shared streets for essential trip-making. Mr. Rawson clarified that these are neither open nor closed, and all travel modes will continue to use these streets. They will not be focused on active recreation, but will better allow for physical distancing and decrease the threat of speeding vehicles. The design as an interconnected network is an essential component of the strategy, rather than isolated or closed street conditions. A mixture of standard and customized signage will be deployed on saw-horses, cones and barrels, enabling easy movement and flexibility.

Mr. Rawson reinforced that the focus is on access to essential trips, avoiding creating destinations, and considerations of equity and communities of color, where vehicle access is lowest. The proposed Phase 1 will be routes in neighborhoods where access to a vehicle is lowest, that provide connections to grocery stores, SPS food pickup sites, and SHC Project SOUP food pantry, and noting that Glen Street serves as a pedestrian route during National Grid gas work on Cross Street.

More information can be found and feedback can be shared at

Councilor Strezo asked about whether mask citations have been issued and Ms. Webber noted that no citations have been issued to-date. Councilor Strezo moved that the administration provide a weekly update on mask citations issued and any non-compliance. The motion was approved.

Councilor Rossetti asked about the funding for the food pantry, and Mr. Kress confirmed that some of it is from COVID specific funds. Mr. Kress also confirmed that several Police and Fire Department staff have tested positive and that these staff will be moved to a recovery area. Councilor Rossetti expressed concern that any residents who came into contact with these first responders should be notified. Councilor Rossetti asked that an update be provided weekly on the numbers of public safety staff who have tested positive. Councilor Rossetti asked whether ISD and the Health Department are prepared to conduct random checks of businesses once re-opening is allowed. Mr. Kress explained that the limited staff capacity and the state guidance dictate that enforcement will be guided by complaints. Councilor Rossetti suggested that signage be posted at these businesses that 311 should be called to report any issues.

Councilor Scott requested the information on what percentage of the City's public safety staff have been tested. Mr. Kress shared that for the Fire Department, 10% is the amount that the medical director is aware of, but that information is self-reported. He elaborated that most who have tested positive have not worked in a situation where they would put others at risk within a three day window of testing positive. The call logs have been checked to ensure any members of the public who have been in contact have been notified. Councilor Scott emphasized that regardless of use of PPE, it cannot be assumed that there was no exposure, and Mr. Kress clarified that there was no physical exposure. Councilor Scott noted that the fewest tests have been conducted on residents in the 02145 zip code, which is also where the highest rate of cases are found, and Mr. Kress noted that the Immigrant Services Unit is promoting the testing and tests have been allocated for that zip code and the mobile unit is focusing on the area as well. The goal is to eliminate any barriers to testing, including cost, location, and language. Councilor Scott suggested localized outreach in the form of CTY calls.

Councilor Scott also asked whether there have been other arrests that were driven by mask order compliance and the Chair will follow-up with the administration about a response. Councilor Scott asked what the plan is for some other high-traffic streets such as Washington Street and Central Street. Mr. Rawson noted that the Mobility team is working on providing supplemental sidewalk space on Washington Street, particularly to access Market Basket. Other streets such as Park Street and Dane Street have proven tricky, but the department will continue to work to develop strategies for access and connectivity. Ms. Connor noted that the high demand and need to move quickly are being balanced with feedback, and the process is iterative and updates can be made based on input.

Councilor Ewen-Campen added that testing city employees is not to single out individuals, and noted that there are entities that intend to test all employees multiple times each week upon re-opening and the vision of the city should be to employ extensive testing in order to open in the safest environment possible. He highlighted confusion caused by the debit cards as part of the economic impact payment, and encouraged communication from the administration to ensure residents that it is not a scam. Councilor Ewen-Campen asked what the considerations were for deciding which streets to choose for the shared streets model. Mr. Rawson noted that one of the most important criteria was to minimize arterial street connection points and focus on a back streets network. Trying to avoid hills where possible was another consideration, and general coverage and connectivity will continue to be refined.

Councilor Mbah asked what the limitations were for testing and whether city employees will be tested upon returning to work. Mr. Kress noted that there is a fear of the testing, fear of isolation and being out of work, and fear of the stigma. Ms. Webber added that the re-opening plan is still being developed and testing is part of the conversation, but no procedures have been determined. Councilor Clingan asked about the protocol for identification of residents being tested, and Mr. Kress confirmed that identification is requested, but a name and birthday are sufficient if one is not available. Councilor Clingan suggested rephrasing the signage and the process to eliminate some of the perceived barriers for undocumented residents. Councilor Clingan also asked about whether an emergency childcare facility could be opened in Somerville. Mr. Kress noted that the facilities were identified through the state based on applications from facilities. Councilor White asked about the Somerville case data, and whether those who haven't recovered are hospitalized or isolated. Mr. Kress will look into the data, and noted as well that the period of isolation is based on the individual's signs and symptoms, generally 7-14 days, and even if asymptomatic. Councilor White also asked about religious services and Mr. Kress noted that the City is continuing to enforce the 10-person gathering limit while researching options to safely expand and letting the data guide decisions. Ms. Webber added that a working group of religious leaders is being created to help make the determinations related to opening safely.

Councilor Niedergang reiterated Councilor Ewen-Campen's point about the debit cards, noting that they look like credit card advertisements and may very likely be thrown away. Councilor Ballantyne reiterated Councilor Clingan's point that identification was required for testing at CHA, even for her 12 year old. Councilor Ballantyne also suggested that Holland Street and Broadway from Ward 7 into Davis Square be considered for sidewalk expansion, as many use that route when walking to the MBTA. Chair Davis agreed that additional input on the shared streets model is encouraged. Chair Davis also noted that a utility company closed streets recently, which led to missed deliveries and confusion from residents, and noted that the signage is unclear, and delivery drivers should be made aware that deliveries can still be made.

Jun 1, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Stelljes presented the weekly situation summary, with key dates for the week including: May 29, when the City announced its June 1 reopening date for hair salons and barbershops, along with higher safety standards than state guidelines, and also announced that city buildings will remain closed to the public past June 1; and May 28, when the City announced $1.5 million in rental assistance.

Global trends show cases and deaths continuing to increase, with cases up 14.7% from last week, and deaths up 8.3%. United States' trends depict slightly slower growth in cases, with an increase of 8.6% over last week, and an increase in deaths of 6.9%. The country has now surpassed 100,000 deaths. Massachusetts' rank among states has decreased slightly, ranking fifth in total cases (with 96,301) and fourth in rate of cases by population (1,395 per 100,000 residents).

The MA Department of Public Health (DPH) dashboard depicts positive trends in testing capabilities, along with decreases in hospitalizations and hospitals using surge capacity. The rate of growth in the state over the past week was an increase of 4,290 cases (4.6%) and 474 deaths (7.4%), both indicating a downward trend, with an increase of 60,480 tests (11.4%).

As of May 27, Somerville had 1,105.3 cases per 100,000 residents (up from 1043.9 on May 20). Chelsea continues to see the highest case rates across MA (7,203.1), followed by Brockton (4,031.6), Lawrence (3,333.1), and Lynn (3,251.6). Additionally, Somerville had 8,732 tests per 100,000 residents in the same time period. Shirley had the highest testing rates across MA (26,076), followed by Chelsea (17,900), Ayer (17,686), and Bedford (15,225). The rate reflects the number of people tested, not the total number of tests (people may be tested more than once). Also as of May 27 (for the duration of the pandemic), 12.7% of the Somerville residents who were tested for COVID-19 had positive test results. Buckland has the highest percent positivity across MA (44.4%), followed by Chelsea (40.2%), Lynn (31.3%), and Everett (30.6%).

As of Monday June 1 at 12:40pm: 902 Somerville residents tested positive, with 665 recovered and 27 fatalities. Ms. Stelljes noted that the next week will be important to indicate any increases due to the Memorial Day holiday, and the following week may show increases due to close proximity during protests. The rate of cases is highest in the 80+ age group, though this is likely impacted by the testing concentrated on this group. The gap between cases in Somerville's three zip codes has decreased. For the week of May 25 through May 31: 02143 saw a rate of 0.19 cases per 1,000 residents; 02144 had 0.15 cases per 1,000 residents; and 02145 experienced 0.29 cases per 1,000 residents.

For the week of May 25 through May 29, the Somerville Public Schools (SPS) distributed 4,354 meals (breakfast and lunch). School meal sites were open on Memorial Day but had the lowest number of pickups since the start of the meal program. An additional 2,384 face masks were also distributed (298 bags with 8 masks each). The Emergency Food Pantry served 605 households (approximately 2,243 individuals), which was a continuing trend of fewer new referrals.

For Public Safety, the week of May 24 through May 30 saw 11 COVID-19 related medical calls, which is 6 fewer than the prior week. As of May 31, there have been 287 COVID-19 related medical calls, with last week averaging 1.4 COVID related calls per day.

Mr. Kress shared that the focus is on guidance in reopening in the community and ensuring safety. Investigations on positive cases and contact tracing are also continuing, utilizing nursing staff. The department is working to maintain some of the school nurses for summer work. Community testing (which excludes CHA patients and first responders) has served over 3,500 individuals, with 129 positive cases cumulatively. The City has worked with volunteers across the region, including public health students and alumni. The mobile testing site, testing of senior and other multi-unit buildings, shelters, and other residents in need, also continues to progress.

Councilor Rossetti asked about the COVID cases from public safety personnel. Ms. Webber reported that the administration will not share these numbers, because the numbers are so low that disclosure could be identifying to individuals and maintaining employee privacy is a concern. Councilor Rossetti noted that the Committee should be informed if the numbers are rising. Councilor Mbah asked whether daycare facilities would be able to open next month. Ms. Webber noted that the City does not have the authority to open or close daycares, as they are regulated at the state level. The Governor's order indicates that they will remain closed until June 29, and the City has not heard differently, and is also awaiting information on what guidelines will be put in place for reopening these facilities.

Councilor White noted that street cleaning announcements and reminders do not seem to be functioning on the City's website, and suggested that the link be evaluated Ms. Connor has asked the staff for more information, and is awaiting a response. Councilor White also noted that there were not many available parking spaces and requested information about tickets issued for street sweeping to ensure it is not becoming a hardship. Ms. Connor noted that this is and will continue to be monitored and the administration will report about citations. Councilor Ballantyne expressed thanks for the mobile testing and the MRC reserve corps and the student health volunteers.

Councilor Scott expressed concern about the rate of testing in the public safety departments. He suggested stronger encouragement to convince police officers and fire fighters to be tested. He also shared that orange netting was removed from parks in order to access them, and nothing has been done to address this despite reports to 311. Ms. Webber confirmed that there has been no change in policy, and she will follow up with DPW and Parks to rectify the situation. Councilor Strezo asked if there were citations for violations of the mask ordinance. Ms. Webber reported that there have been no citations, and further, no arrests have been made stemming from non-compliance with the face covering order.

Councilor Ewen-Campen shared concern about green space, in particular pieces of green space that could be reopened that are low risk, such as community gardens and tennis courts. Councilor Clingan noted that the Dilboy tennis courts were opened today, those at Foss Park are pending a response from the state, as they are not under the City's purview, and those at Tufts are privately controlled.

Chair Davis requested an update on the plans for outdoor dining and retail spaces through the shared streets program, recognizing that the focus is on transportation, but that in a city as dense as Somerville, these plans will be important to small businesses.

Jun 8, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Noonan began by presenting the weekly situation update. The new key date since the previous meeting is June 3, when Somerville declared racism a public health and safety emergency and outlined initiatives to address the issue.

Global trends show that the speed of increase is growing, with an increase of 28% since last week, where the previous weekly increase was only 14%. The trends in the Unites States are more stable. Massachussetts is now 5th in the country based on number of cases, and 3rd based on case rate by population. All of the MDPH data trends on the dashboard show positive or in progress trends. Importantly, the dashboard now includes data on testing, which is steadily increasing.

Somerville is slightly below the state total in cases per population. As of June 3, Somerville had 10,294 tests per 100,000 residents. Also as of June 3, 11.2% of the Somerville residents who were tested for COVID-19 had positive test results, which is down from 12.7% on May 27.

As of Monday, June 8 at 9:15am: 926 residents tested positive; 665 recovered; 29 fatalities; 261 active cases (total cases less those recovered).

Somerville Public Schools delivered 4,537 meals during the week of June 1 through June 5. Last week’s demand was on par with prior weeks. The Emergency Food Pantry served 545 households (approximately 2,028 individuals), with a continuing trend of fewer new referrals. As of June 1, the total masks distributed to departments is 51,306.

The Police Department data show that over the past two weeks, crime-related calls for service were 48% higher than the previous two week period. This increase is attributable to property crime. The calls for service decreased in the past month primarily due to fewer directed patrols. As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and property crime increases, patrol deployment strategy shifts. In the Fire Department, last week saw 7 COVID-19 related medical calls, which is 4 fewer than the prior week. Additionally, there were a total of 295 COVID-19 related medical calls as of June 7. Last week had an average of 1.1 COVID-19 related calls per day.

Mr. Kress reported that community testing continues successfully, particularly in shelters, where the city continues to keep positive cases down. The phasing in Somerville is also being addressed in a more community-specific way, which includes a variety of industry-specific meetings to focus on best practices for re-opening. Mr. Kress noted that there will be times when guidance is modified, and the city will continue to monitor state and other guidelines.

Councilor Rossetti asked if any public safety personnel had been confirmed as positive cases and Mr. Kress confirmed that there has been no conformation of changes to previous numbers. Councilor Rossetti also asked how many applications had been received to extend the seating area of restaurants into the street or sidewalk. Mr. Boukili announced that applicaton intake will begin tomorrow. The first group of business owners will be those with already approved outdoor seating, but will be re-applied for based on the new COVID-19 guidelines. These applications will be submitted to the Licensing Commission. The second phase of applications, those taking a portion of a public right of way, will be a more complex process due to the safety issues. Councilor Rossetti asked if mask assistance was offered to the schools, and Mr. Boukili noted that this is in the planning stages, and there will be masks provided, though it remains unclear where the funding will be specifically drawn from.

Councilor Strezo asked if there were any updates on antibody testing and Mr. Kress shared that the testing is not quite ready, but the department is continuing to move it forward as fast as possible. Councilor Ballantyne asked about getting over-the-counter medicine (allergy, ibuprofen etc.) to residents with financial challenges and Mr. Kress noted that this has not yet been provided, and there have not been many requests, but it could be explored if needed. Direction from a primary care provider would be useful in a case like this, as the city would not want to distribute medication that could cause allergic reactions or adverse effects.

Councilor Scott asked if there had been progress made with getting public safety personnel tested and Mr. Kress elaborated that it remains an open option and is promoted by the department. Councilor Scott asked if the mobile site has been spending time in the 02145 zip code, and it is planned for that area on Thursday and Friday of this week. Councilor Scott asked as well whether guidelines had been released for restaurants, and Mr. Boukili shared that there is a working group of 26 restaurant owners addressing the issue, with guidelines just issued, which can be found at the following website: Councilor White, as Chair of the Licenses and Permits Committee, summarized that a permit must be issued for any outdoor seating. The administration wants to streamline this process, and has presented an order that would transfer this authority to the Licensing Commission, to allow for a faster processing time than would waiting for the scheduled City Council meetings. This transfer of responsibilities would last through November, or until the expiration of the state of emergency. No new applications can be received by the Licensing Commission until this order is approved by the City Council.

Councilor Scott asked whether the administration was prepared to reverse course on opening if cases spiked, and what thresholds were established to determine this. Mr. Boukili confirmed that community based testing numbers, state testing numbers, and any hospital data indicating spikes in admissions will all be tracked and considered. It is notable, however, that the reaction is generally 5-14 days behind the transmission.

Councilor Ewen-Campen asked if the city had made plans to open public spaces for recreation, and if libraries would be allowing curbside pickup. Mr. Boukili announced that library pickup news will be announced soon. The active use of parks will depend on operational ability to sanitize and to control capacity, as well as to trace any outbreaks that may be connected to outdoor spaces. Once this ability is confirmed, the opening of these facilities will be announced. Councilor Clingan confirmed that this process is being addressed by asset, which means that all parks may not open at the same time, and some features may also be available at different intervals. Councilor Strezo inquired whether splash pads were even under consideration and Mr. Boukili confirmed that they were not completely discounted, particularly noting their utility in hot weather, but contact must be managed and it will be studied further before action is taken. Councilor Mbah asked if there was information about daycare facilities, and Mr. Boukili noted that they are licensed by the state, and are closed through June 29. It is up to the state to release guidelines and regulations before they can re-open.

Chair Davis reiterated that finding space for businesses, both restaurant and retail, is an important priority. Mr. Boukili added that there will be a period for testing and determining where capacity is most needed, and all ideas will be considered to find ways to support the city's businesses.

Jun 22, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Ms. Noonan presented the weekly situation updated, noting that key dates since the previous meeting include June 19, when a second shared streets route opened in West Somerville; small Business COVID-19 Relief Fund loan recipients were announced; the face covering order was altered for summer months; and pools, playgrounds, and other recreation areas reopening schedule was announced. The global trends show 8.9 million cases worldwide, an increase of 13%. In the United States, there are approximately 2.5 million cases, an increase of almost 9%. Massachusetts now ranks 6th by the number of cases, and 3rd by the rate of cases per population. In just the last seven days, MA ranks 28th.

The MA Department of Public Health (MDPH) dashboard indicators all remain positive or in progress, with declining hospitalizations and deaths. Total cases have also increased only 1.4% over the previous week, with tests increasing 8.5%. As of June 17, Somerville had 1,203.3 cases per 100,000 residents, which is up from 1,181.1 on June 10. Somerville also had 13,753 tests per 100,000 residents. Bedford has the highest testing rates across MA (28,128). Additionally, 8.8% of the Somerville residents who were tested for COVID-19 had positive test results, which is a decrease from 9.8% on June 10. As of Monday, June 22 at 10:15 am: 975 Somerville residents tested positive; 865 recovered; there were 31 fatalities; and 110 active cases remain. The 7-day and 14-day moving averages are approximately 4 new cases per day.

The City Emergency Food Pantry will close on June 26, with 80% of households reporting that they are now able to procure groceries. The Shape-Up Mobile Farmer's Market will launch on July 11. The Somerville Public Schools (SPS) meals program distributed 4,639 meals (breakfast and lunch), and SPS will continue distributing meals at the four school sites throughout the summer on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9am-11am.

The Fire Department reported five COVID-19 related medical calls in the last week, which is three more than the prior week. As of June 19, there are 301 cumulative COVID-19 related medical

calls. Last week saw an average of one COVID-19 related call per day.

Mr. Kress reported that reopening is underway, and noted that the face covering requirements have been adjusted to accommodate for summer weather. He also thanked the school nurses and noted that many will continue working throughout the summer. The testing has increased to over 200 people per day being tested. Partners in Health will continue working with the City to assist with contact tracing, particularly as school nurses leave for the summer. The emergency food pantry is bring de-mobilized, but existing partners will be leveraged to assist during the transition. The Metro East Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is continuing in a volunteer capacity to assist with outreach.

Councilor Strezo asked about food pantry availability in the summer months, and Mr. Kress confirmed that programming will continue, and the department is working to determine how to best reach students, given the decrease in summer youth programs. Chair Davis requested an update in writing, given that the next meeting is two weeks away. Councilor Niedergang asked about the policy around religious services and houses of worship and Mr. Kress shared that there was a community town meeting held to determine the appropriate guidelines, which have been sent to houses or worship as they begin holding services again. This does not extend to other services or activities. Councilor Ewen-Campen asked whether hand washing stations can be included at playgrounds as part of the reopening plan. Ms. Webber will research and provide an update. Councilor Ewen-Campen also asked about testing levels, noting that the number of tests in Somerville is increasing, but the state is nowhere near the goals it set. Mr. Kress agreed that testing needs to continue, and Somerville is continuing to try to be a leader and promote testing as much as possible. Targeted outreach to low-tested areas in Ward 1, as well as outreach through faith-based organizations and the immigrant services unit to immigrant families, and having language services available through CHA has been helpful. Regionally, the City continues to emphasize the importance of testing and identifying any pockets of positive cases. Councilor McLaughlin asked about indoor dining and Ms. Webber noted that the second half of Phase 2 of the state plan, allowing indoor dining, begins today. Mr. Proakis and Mr. Galligani of OSPCD are working on guidelines for Somerville and will provide an update. Chair Davis asked that this update be provided tomorrow, as many constituents and business owners are inquiring. Councilor Clingan asked for details about the plan to open parks and playgrounds, particularly the equipment, as it seems many barriers have been removed. Ms. Webber noted that playgrounds will be open on June 29. Any fencing and barriers removed have likely been to allow the DPW to prepare for opening. Hand washing stations will be included at some playgrounds, while others will have hand sanitizing stations. Ms. Webber will provide more details about what will be at each facility soon.

Chair Davis asked if there were updated numbers for public safety employees and Ms. Webber noted that no citations have been issued for violations of the face covering order and no arrests have been made derived from non-compliance with the face covering order. The amendments to the order for the summer should help ease the burden on residents. Chair Davis asked further if there have been any reported cases among the public safety departments (Police and Fire) and Mr. Kress noted that there have been no new cases reported for either department. Chair Davis also shared an experience from a constituent, noting that CHA billed a former insurance company in error and subsequently the resident received a bill. It was suggested that residents be made aware that they are not obligated to pay any bills that they may receive. Chair Davis asked as well about the food pantry, noting that although 80% of those surveyed stated that they can now access groceries, they may not be able to easily afford the food and supplies that they need. Mr. Kress clarified that there will still be safety nets available through other partners, such as Project Soup. The City will also be working to assist with expanding the Project Soup delivery program, for those who are unable to access a food pantry in the community.

Chair Davis emphasized that the successes have largely come from staying at home, and precautions are critical in reopening so the numbers don't spike upwards again. Mr. Kress agreed, and added that this will be a long journey, with constantly evolving information. This must be a community response, with everyone contributing, to continue to avoid a surge. Opening slowly and with the data in mind, while continuing social distancing, face coverings, and hand washing, are all important components to a positive journey. He urged everyone to spread this message.

Jul 13, 2020 5:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Director Kress provided an update that there are just over 1,000 confirmed cases in Somerville, with 965 individuals having recovered, and 33 deaths. Continued vigilance is critical, with resurgences happening across the country, and retractions of openings in states like California. Several counties have also shifted fall school schedules to online only platforms. Somerville has delayed its Phase 3 reopening to await additional guidance and precautions. This phase includes indoor activities such as museums, gyms and performance venues, but with lower potential for contact. The City is asking for plans around addressing issues, including limiting capacity, ensuring social distancing and requiring face coverings. These are important to slow the spread of the virus. Somerville is taking a realistic approach, and recognizing that a second wave will come, so expanded testing is also important. The City is working closely with the state to conduct a pilot to better understand the antibody testing, including the possibility of allowing individuals to take tests at home.

Chair Davis asked about the capacity for testing, noting that there are often lines outside testing facilities. Mr. Kress emphasized the partnerships with Cambridge Health Alliance and Cataldo Ambulance, and clarified that Somerville is one of only a few cities testing all individuals, including those who are asymptomatic. There are constraints due to the resources of the hospital system and the increased number of tests requested. Many of the regional testing sites were closed due to lack of use, which shifted individuals from the region to Somerville. Additional testing sites are opening in Chelsea and Everett, which will hopefully soon alleviate the burden on Somerville. The mobile testing unit has focused on the senior housing buildings and the most vulnerable populations, including those with limited access to testing. The community testing takes place outdoors, and is dependent on the weather. The use of the testing sites has also increased as people sought proof of negative tests for travel, return to work, or participation in activities. There have also been issues with availability of the supplies needed. Mr. Kress added that just under 15,000 people in Somerville have been tested, including approximately 1,100 antibody tests, with 81 positive.

Councilor Ewen-Campen asked for more information on what is being done to decrease the wait time for tests. Mr. Kress clarified that working with the state to get additional supplies including the reagent is necessary, as well as finding additional locations for testing, and increasing the staff capacity at CHA and Cataldo. Councilor Ewen-Campen also shared that a number of entities are advocating for expanding testing to Somerville workers. Mr. Kress elaborated that the state system is set up such that any test results are returned to the community of residence, so the department would not be able to manage any positive cases for workers who do not reside in the City. Now that the state has the Stop the Spread Testing Program, these facilities will be a good option, as the reporting will take place through the state. Councilor Ewen-Campen also noted that Somerville has relaxed the requirement for face coverings while outside in situations where social distancing can be maintained, but commented that many public employees and contractors working outside are not wearing masks, and worried that this is not setting a good example. Mr. Kress noted that the change to this requirement was due to the hot weather, to allow for some relief over the summer months. Ms. Webber added that the administration agrees and believes that face coverings are of critical importance, and mask wearing is part of the safety guidelines required of contractors working in the City, as well as of employees when in public. Councilor Ballantyne echoed this and added that Tufts has also issued a requirement for masks to be worn on campus by both students and workers, beginning July 1st, and it is a concern if the City's requirements are not as strong.

Councilor Mbah asked about indoor activities and Mr. Kress noted that as the virus evolves, the decisions may change, and the department is considering the implications on the spread of the virus as well as on the small businesses, but there is no easy answer, and they will continue to evaluate and make decisions based on the data available.

Councilor Niedergang cited an example of a constituent with symptoms who was discouraged from getting tested by their physician and encountered an ordeal in finding available testing, and wondered how those individuals with symptoms can ensure that they are tested quickly. Mr. Kress noted that care providers should have a referral mechanism to ensure that their patients are tested. He has also suggested that several appointment spots can be reserved each day for those with critical needs. The state sponsored testing facilities in Chelsea and Everett will also accept some walk-up clients. Councilor Niedergang added that this may be an issue for those who need to take public transportation, and encouraged Mr. Kress to continue to advocate with CHA.

Councilor Strezo asked if a mobile testing unit would be a possibility for the schools, and Mr. Kress noted that this is among the considerations in the plans for re-opening schools, but any place (similar to the senior housing buildings) where there is a high risk, would be a possibility for focused testing. He added that the testing is not recommended for children under the age of 8 due to the invasive nature of the swab. Councilor Strezo also asked if the use of reusable shopping bags has been evaluated and Ms. Webber shared that it has not been a focus, but will be considered for potential implementation during Phase 3 or Phase 4. Chair Davis clarified that although state guidance has changed to allow for reusable bag use, it is still not recommended in Somerville.

Councilor White asked about the city doing a check for antibodies and Mr. Kress stated there will be two pilot studies. Councilor White also asked if the City had any thoughts about utilizing tests on individuals who tested positive with the virus to check antibody levels and Mr. Kress noted that these antibody tests will be conducted as part of a randomized study and the protocol is not up to the City to determine who will be tested. More information will follow. Councilor White wondered if the hospitals are sampling the strain of the virus and if the West Coast could bring in a different strain that may have adverse effects. Mr. Kress was not aware of this. Councilor White also shared concerns about compliance with the wearing of face masks and Ms. Webber noted that the administration will reconsider and reevaluate compliance with the face mask order, and will work to balance concerns with the public health considerations. Councilor White noted that even if the requirements are not increased, perhaps an announcement and reminder would be useful.

Councilor Scott asked if the reduction in testing sites was a conscious choice, and Mr. Kress reiterated that CHA's reduction was due to low usage at some sites. Currently, there is a supply challenge with the reagent, which hopefully will be fixed soon to enable testing to continue at established levels or be expanded in the Somerville. He confirmed that the City is still encouraging everyone to get tested.

Aug 17, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole

Councilor Niedergang shared a suggestion from a constituent that a public education campaign, including pictures of faces properly wearing masks and instructions about what wearing masks means, could be useful. Mr. Kress noted that there is a campaign around masks and social distancing being prepared, and the Tufts plan also includes educational information, including the use of student ambassadors. Mr. Kress has encouraged this to extend to the community in areas where students are known to gather.

Councilor Rossetti requested a weekly report on the conversations and updates from Tufts and Mr. Kress agreed that he can provide that. Councilor Rossetti also noted that there is an annual license renewal fee for businesses and wondered whether there was a discussion about temporary relief for the fees, as many small business owners are struggling. Councilor Rossetti moved that the administration consider relief for local small businesses as it relates to their annual renewal of licenses and associated fees. The motion was approved on a vote of 9 in favor (Scott, Ewen-Campen, Clingan, Niedergang, Mbah, Rossetti, Strezo, White, Davis) and 2 absent (McLaughlin, Ballantyne). Councilor White also noted that many restaurant businesses would like to continue outdoor seating beyond the current November 1 deadline and possibly add heating. Mr. Kress will work with ISD and Economic Development to evaluate what they can offer to small businesses. Chair Davis agreed that the response to the increased outdoor seating has been overwhelmingly positive and any extension, weather and safety permitting, would be welcomed. Councilor Rossetti urged collaboration with the Fire Department regarding what is safe for heating the spaces. Councilor White moved that the administration work with the City Council to administer a smooth transition for outdoor seating permits when they reach the City Council for renewal beyond November 1. The motion was approved on a vote of 9 in favor (Scott, Ewen-Campen, Clingan, Niedergang, Mbah, Rossetti, Strezo, White, Davis) and 2 absent (McLaughlin, Ballantyne).

Aug 31, 2020 6:00 PM Video Public Health and Public Safety Committee Committee of the Whole
draft Draft

Ms. Noonan presented the situation summary, beginning with a key date of August 25, when the City announced its consideration of allowing limited Phase 3 Step 1 business to reopen as soon as September 8. Global trends show that there are approximately 24.5 million cases in the world, with the United States leading the count. Over the last 2 weeks, the cases have increased 16.9% and deaths by 9.5%. Unites States trends show the U.S. at approximately 5.8 million cases and 178,000 deaths. Massachusetts now ranks 13th in states for the number of total cases and 16th in cases by population. Somerville is rated yellow by the state, indicating a case rate of 4-8 cases per 100,000 population, averaging 4.7 cases over the last 14 days. Neighboring communities Revere, Everett and Chelsea are in the red category. As of August 27, the state has recorded 117,500 confirmed cases and 8,775 deaths. The data are less reliable when they are closer to the date reported, and there are some lags in reporting. As of August 26, Somerville has tested a total of 30,218 people. As of August 30, there have been 1,131 positive confirmed cases (PCR test) and 95 positive probable cases (antigen or antibody test) with 1,094 recovered and 38 fatalities in the City. There are currently 94 active cases in Somerville. A new Somerville COVID dashboard launched today, and there may be small discrepancies between that data and the MDPH data, due to a few cases reported prior to March 1 which are not included in the City's visual depiction range.

Last week (8/23-8/29), the Fire Department saw 4 COVID-19 related medical calls, which is 4 fewer than the prior week. There have been 374 total COVID-19 related medical calls as of today. Last week had an average of 0.6 COVID related calls per day.

Chair Davis confirmed that Somerville was previously coded green by the state, and is now yellow. Mr. Kress elaborated that the City increased its positivity rate a bit over the last few days, which is the reason for the change. Councilor Ewen-Campen questioned whether the City's dashboard includes anyone who has tested positive from Tufts, and Mr. Kress confirmed that it does, as counted in the MAVEN software. It will fluctuate based on how the data are entered into that system, which is operated through the state. The Broad Institute, which is conducting the testing for Tufts, reports its data into the system, though it does require some occasional quality control. Councilor Ewen-Campen also noted that Tufts does have its own dashboard that is available to the public and can be found at

Councilor Ballantyne clarified that the 30,218 number includes the number of tests, rather than the number of individuals tested. Mr. Kress added that this is how Tufts is reporting data as well, and students will be tested multiple times. Councilor Ballantyne wondered if the number of individuals would be useful and Mr. Kress noted that the approach to testing varies widely by individual and the number of unique tests would indicate how much of the population has been tested. Councilor Rossetti asked how many of the 7 positive cases from Tufts thus far are from the Somerville/Medford campus site, noting that the student and staff population are all getting tested. Mr. Kress has asked Tufts to clarify the information within the dashboard, and 3 of those who tested positive are Somerville residents. He emphasized that the process has moved quickly to get the students into the isolation unit, and their families have also been contacted to get tested as well. The test results are being returned within 24 hours and the contact tracing and quarantining process is working.

Chair Davis asked about the plans for the City's transition into Phase 3, Step 1. Mr. Boukili responded that this Phase has been on hold for the past 7 weeks, and the City has now expressed that it will begin this phase of reopening next week if the health indicators continue the positive trend. This will allow for the restricted opening of gyms and fitness centers, though other types of indoor entertainment such as movie theaters will remain unavailable due to the risk. Chair Davis added that this step seems inconsistent with the administration's previously expressed caution and priorities, such as prioritizing a return to school. Mr. Boukili noted that theaters are a particular concern due to the enclosed area for an extended period of time with limited movement. This phase will continue to limit capacity on indoor spaces and to require face coverings, and will also require strict monitoring of information for contact tracing purposes. Chair Davis asked further what has happened to lead to the comfortability with the increased risk. Mr. Boukili noted that this has not been decided, and surveillance testing will remain critical, as well as continued monitoring of health data. Much will depend on the safety plans and regulations submitted by each operator.

Councilor Strezo requested that there be messaging to emphasize mask wearing. Mr. Kress responded that communications are being updated, particularly directed at wearing face coverings, and face coverings are also being distributed to some vulnerable populations. Further, there will be ambassadors at Tufts tasked with distributing and encouraging wearing of masks. Councilor Strezo wondered as well if the directives that were updated for summer would be extended and Mr. Kress will continue to research and evaluate.