Re-opening for Some Businesses A Slow Return to Status Quo

Driving to Memorial Day exercises on Monday, Public Health Nurse Sabrina Firicano said it was a little shocking to see beauty salons open along Elm Street and some barber shops on a holiday, but restrictions were lifted on Monday and those businesses – many chomping at the bit for weeks to get the doors open –  were allowed to hang out the ‘Open’ sign for the first time in months.

Still, she said, it was a slow beginning according to what she saw.

“So far, it’s been going well,” she said. “Between myself and the Health Department and ISD inspectors, we’ll take any complaints we receive in regard to having too many individuals in a shop or not wearing a mask. For the most part, people really want to get back to work and so they want to do the right thing. I’m hopeful on that and we haven’t received any complaints yet. I’m sure we’ll get some to start trickling in.”

She estimated that 20 to 30 shops opened on Monday, despite the holiday. Most seemed to be following the guidelines and she said most businesses are easing slowly into the “new normal.” Gov. Charlie Baker had allowed Houses of Worship, construction and manufacturing to begin on May 18, and then one week later some retail and services like beauty shops and barber shops. The latter two had been clamoring to open in Everett for months, with most owners frequently asking City officials about a date to return.

“There were quite a few salons and barber shops open on Elm Street and Broadway, but there were only a couple of people there,” she said. “There was maybe one person getting a haircut. I think they’re trying to start slow. This is their livelihood and they don’t want to take it back again. We’re trying to keep from having a start and stop, start and stop.”

City inspectors that get a complaint plan on doing mostly outreach and education rather than punishment. They will visit any place of business that has had a complaint and instruct them on the basics of what has to be done for safety. They will also do the same if they happen to observe something outside the regulations while on their normal inspection routes.

Salons and barber shops – along with other service retail allowed to open under state regulations – are to operate by appointment only. Walk-in traffic is being discouraged as they don’t want multiple people waiting inside for their turn. Firicano said they are having people wait outside, or in cars, until called or texted.

She said Phase 2 of the re-opening is scheduled for June 8 if all goes according to plan, but any setbacks if cases increase would trigger a slowdown in that plan.

“To hit that mark, we have to continue to see the positive per test rate stay steady – it’s at 8 to 10 percent now – but we want to see that decrease as well,” she said.

•First elderly building low on cases

The first wide-spread testing of elderly buildings in Everett proved that social distancing works – with very few cases at all registered from the large testing pool at the senior citizen building at 66 Main St.

“We did test 66 Main St. and there were every few positive COVID-19 cases that came out of that testing,” she said. “I think a lot of elderly are afraid to go out and haven’t gone out. They’re staying in and had food dropped off and don’t have anyone come into their apartment.”

She said it was a shock to see, as they thought older adult buildings might be ravaged as nursing homes were.

“We thought it would be a lot of positive cases,” she said. “You don’t know when you test. It was shocking, but in a good way.”

Meanwhile, last Thursday, the City and Cataldo Ambulance and Cambridge Health Alliance sponsored widespread testing of three senior buildings in Everett – including Glendale Towers, Whittier Drive and Golden Age Circle.

“They were able to do all three buildings that afternoon,” she said. “We had two teams from Cataldo that did all three sites.”

Results are not yet in and are expected to take five days.

Residents were required to pre-register for the testing for logistical purposes and in order to keep lab tests coordinated. Some were not able to be tested because of this, and Firicano said they might have the team come back to the sites to test those that wanted to be tested.

•Case numbers going down

The numbers of new positive COVID-19 cases continues to go down this week, with six new cases Sunday to Monday, and seven new cases from Monday to Tuesday. That’s down from a high of about 50 per day at the surge point.

There were a total of 1,566 positive cases in Everett since the beginning of the pandemic, and 523 had recovered and were out of isolation.

There have been 27 reported deaths from COVID-19, which is lower than many communities Everett’s size.

cFiricano said that is because there is only one long-term care nursing home in Everett. Most others have three to five such facilities, and most deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in those facilities.

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