Cambridge City Council pitting businesses against schools.

Cambridge City Council moves to close indoor dining, gyms, casinos and other non-essential indoor activities…pitting businesses against schools.
A late policy order by Mayor Siddiqui and Vice Mayor Mallon (outlined below) was Charter Righted by Councillor Timothy Toomey, who stated, he could not support an order of “this magnitude at this hour” which would sacrifice already struggling businesses in exchange for keeping K-3 and children with special circumstances in school. 

This order pits businesses against schools without any data that suggests this move will prevent the spread of COVID. There is no existing correlation or understanding of agreement between school committee members that the closure of city-wide businesses will equate to schools remaining open. In fact, on November 13th as reported by the Boston Globe, Governor Charlie Baker said he wants to keep schools and businesses open because they’re not driving the spread of COVID-19.

Baker went on to say that individuals expanding their social circles and letting their guard down during everyday activities is contributing to the silent spread of the coronavirus. “Our biggest goal with respect to everything is to make sure that we follow the data. It’s pretty clear that it’s private activity and private citizens that are driving a big piece of this.”

It was reported that businesses, schools and colleges have been doing their part to curb the spread. In fact, the administration reportedly inspected more than 10,000 operating businesses in Massachusetts that serve customers and the number that have been found in violation is very small.

Given this data, the Siddiqui-Mallon council order, with an amendment by Councillor Zondervan to close all businesses immediately, is extreme and would be the final blow to many Cambridge businesses, particularly, to our small, locally-owned independents. 

We are calling on the people of Cambridge, as well as business owners and their employees, many of whom live outside of the city, to contact City Councillors to urge them to stop pitting businesses against the schools. It was suggested that business owners and their employees should send photos of themselves and their families to Councillors to make sure they see the people, children and families who will be impacted by this decision. Hundreds will be out of work just days before the holidays without hope of finding new employment. This action is unconscionable particularly as businesses have been adhering to the guidelines, following every demand and bearing the financial brunt.

Ironically, during the same meeting, the council voted 9-0 to support an order by Councillor Simmons that the City Council formally goes on record in urging that Harvard University commit to extending the contracts for all 700 janitors to guarantee job security and economic improvements for these essential workers heading into the coming year as their union contract is due to expire. Why is it okay for Harvard employees to work, but not the rest of the city?

Both Dr. Anthony Fauci and Governor Charlie Baker are not recommending wholesale shutting down of businesses and schools. They are advising we “stay the course” by wearing face masks, social distancing, washing hands and keeping our personal bubbles to a minimum. 

The latest COVID report from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts shows Cambridge numbers are amongst some of the lowest in the state. 

Let’s continue to show restraint, be patient and stay the course. Businesses can operate safely and children can safely attend school. We are doing it now and with commitment, diligence, perseverance and intelligence; we can continue to do so.  

Councillors can be e-mailed at the addresses below:

Policy Order: Restricting Indoor Activities



WHEREAS:   Citywide, Cambridge businesses, the Cambridge Public Health Department and Cambridge Public Schools have implemented several protective measures and strategies to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 throughout the community; and

WHEREAS:   Though these protective measures have kept Cambridge COVID-19 positivity rates lower than neighboring cities, Cambridge’s positive cases do continue to increase daily; and

WHEREAS:   The Cambridge Public Health Department reported 44 new cases in Cambridge today, the highest number of new cases since the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic; and

WHEREAS:   Epidemiologists recommend closing bars, casinos and gyms, and other non-essential business activities to stop the spread of COVID-19 as a way to keep schools open; and

WHEREAS:   Research suggests a strong correlation between indoor activities and the rise of COVID-19 community spread; and

WHEREAS:   Indoor activities are contributing to the rise in cases in Cambridge, getting our metrics dangerously close to closing schools and resuming remote only learning again; and

WHEREAS:   We must take action to restrict the activities of non-essential businesses and gatherings in order to keep our schools open; and

WHEREAS:   We must prioritize our scholars and their education as we navigate through the next phase of the public health crisis; and

WHEREAS:   Our efforts must be part of a regional response in order to not unfairly penalize Cambridge restaurants and small businesses; now therefore be it

ORDERED:   That the City Manager confer with the Metro Mayor’s Association to close indoor dining, gyms, casinos and other non-essential indoor activities as soon as possible; and be it further

ORDERED:   That the City Manager, Community Development Department, the Economic Development Division, the Assessing Department and other relevant City Departments organize a small business and restaurant relief program that will assist during this second shutdown and our efforts to stop community spread of COVID-19 and keep schools open.