City orders personal care businesses to close, citing their ‘imminent danger to public health’
A day after declaring a public health emergency because of Covid-19, city officials on Friday ordered gyms, hair salons and barber shops, tattoo parlors, health clubs, tanning shops and a host of other businesses that provide personal care to customers to shut down beginning Monday. Continued operation “poses an imminent danger to public health” and will “likely contribute to the spread of Covid-19 among the staff and patrons of such establishments,” the emergency order said.
For a second day, Cambridge did not report new cases of Covid-19. The count stands at eight people: six women and two men, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s. The numbers come from the state health department, but the varying speed of the labs report test results means the actual count could be higher, the Cambridge Public Health Department said.
Somerville also reported no change from its six cases.
Speaking of the shutdown order, Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and City Manager Louis A. DePasquale said: “We understand the impact this temporary closure will have, not just on small-business owners, but on the countless individuals in Cambridge who rely on these services and activities as part of their general well-being. Cambridge and other communities are taking this step to ensure we can effectively halt the spread of Covid-19, protect our community and put us back on the path to normalcy as quickly as possible. We encourage people to continue to exercise. You can still take a walk and get fresh air, but please keep 6 feet between you and others.”
Chief public health officer Claude Jacob said the city is “in a race against time to protect residents and frontline health care workers.” The shutdown reflects “the gravity of the situation in our city and the state,” he said.
The order applies to the businesses whether operated publicly or in owners’ homes, it said. The full list of kinds of affected businesses is here.
On Thursday, officials said Cambridge will get $100,000 from the state to beef up its response to the Covid-19 outbreak. The announcement contained signs that the Cambridge Public Health Department could be under stress as it copes with the virus; the money will go “to ensure that CPHD has sufficient resources to monitor and support Covid-19 activities in the city, including enhanced surveillance, the purchasing of additional [personal protection equipment], overtime for staff and more,” the announcement said.
Local public health departments must not only monitor residents under self-quarantine but trace the contacts of anyone who tests positive, a labor-intensive and time-consuming job. Public health nurses do the work, but it couldn’t be determined Friday how many nurses the department has; some school nurses might be able to fill gaps, since their schools are closed.
Besides dealing with Covid-19, the nurses must also do contact-tracing for residents with sexually transmitted diseases and monitor people with tuberculosis, in some cases personally observing them take their prescribed medication.
The public health department has stopped doing tuberculosis tests at its offices on Windsor Street “out of an abundance of caution,” it said on its website. It operates a tuberculosis program at Cambridge Hospital.