The job of a mayor has taken on new meaning in many cities since the start of the pandemic. Many, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, have taken their own approach to managing the virus and the reopening, and that continues to evolve. WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone about his city's reopening plan, and about his thoughts on the Minneapolis protests. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: I'd like to ask you first how you feel as the mayor of a city with a diverse community about what is happening in Minneapolis right now.

Mayor Joe Curtatone: Well, I mentioned this publicly the other day that as elected and local officials, we're fooling ourselves if we're [saying] that couldn't happen in our city and town, meaning if we don't believe racism exists in our institutions and our communities. And my heart goes out for Minneapolis [and] first of all, the Floyd family. George Floyd never should have died. This was absolutely preventable and I hope justice is served. But I'm sure in his memory, his family wouldn't want to see looting and destruction and anyone get hurt.

But I know people are angry. We have a Black Lives Matter banner on Somerville City Hall. That's not a political statement, that's really standing up to say that we're paying attention and we care. I'm not a Black person, but friends of mine who are, they'll say, "Are you upset by what you see? Is [this] just disturbing you?" And I've had this conversation with my son last night. So as a local official, my heart certainly is broken, first for the Floyd family and for what Minneapolis is going through, but [also] for the anguish and the pain the community is feeling. And it's gonna take a long time to heal that pain, not just for Minneapolis, but for the country.

We have a crisis of racism that is being stoked by the administration in Washington that is guided by white supremacy and racism, and that's only compounded years and generations of that disparity [and] inequity in our country.

Mathieu: Well, I mentioned the job of being a mayor, which has unique challenges. Imagine hearing from the president of the United States on Twitter, who is attacking the mayor of Minneapolis in the middle of this.

Curtatone: Yeah, you know, I'll stand with the Minneapolis mayor any day before the president on this. And mayors, we're in a unique position here. We're on the frontlines every day, serving our communities. We're the first to feel the emotion, the pain and the seriousness of the situation, and we see it real time.

And what we need really from Washington [and] from our president is not politics. We need leadership. We're in the midst of an international health emergency in our country, and for the first time ever in I think the world's history, an international health emergency is being used as a political pawn and being used to stoke a political and cultural war. That has done nothing but deepen the divide in our nation, and it's been clear over this president's term in office so far that he has tried to capitalize on that divide.

I hope all Americans, no matter where you sit on your ideology or political party, we stand up for diversity, tolerance, compassion, human decency and justice for everyone. And if that's the case, then we need to be able to tune him out, but not ignore him. We need to really push those hateful, meanspirited [and] divisive words aside. Local leaders, like the mayor of Minneapolis and across the country, have their hands full, as you mentioned, trying to deal with the pandemic. None of us had a pandemic response plan in top drawer. At the same time, the realities of injustice in our country are playing out in the streets of Minneapolis. So I support all the local officials in Minneapolis in their efforts to bring people back together.

Mathieu: Well, let's talk about that health emergency, Mayor. You have decided to take a slightly slower role than the state is taking in that phased reopening plan from Gov. [Charlie] Baker. In terms of hair salons, in terms of houses of worship, Somerville is taking its own path.

Curtatone: Yeah. First, I want to recognize that the reopening advisory board appointed by the governor has had a very daunting task. It's not an easy job to get your arms around and understand how you can, in a very deliberate way, try to safely reactive parts of our lives and our economy.

But as one of many local officials who advocated that we needed to be guided by science, with advice from the health experts and keep equity in mind, we've carried that over here in Somerville to be very deliberate and very thoughtful about what sectors [of] our local economy we're going to activate when. My concern has always been that there's been a focus on a date rather than having a plan. I think people need to keep in mind that we still don't have testing up to a level that is necessary, along with contact tracing and case tracking, to measure what the impacts of activating certain sectors of our economy are and how the pandemic continues to change because we are going to face a resurgence — a second wave, so to speak — and possibly a third, and so forth. We need to make sure that we are prepared for that [and] that we're able to respond strategically to where outbreaks occur. And to do that, you need to have testing after a certain level.

So Somerville has been very deliberate about certain sectors of our economy and our lives, such as salons, personal services [and] houses of worship, where all the experts have said those activities tend to have a higher risk of transmission of the virus from one person to another. So I'm pleased to announce that in our work with those sectors, we are making progress. We established a working group with the salons and barbershops. We're about to announce a plan today to open on June 1 with enhanced guidelines. We've added measures to what the governor's reopening advisory board and the governor approved to protect workers, customers and the community at large with the hopes that once a business opens — and this is important — that it stays open. We want our recovery to ensure public health and safety, but we want the recovery to be sustainable.

We're taking the same deliberate, informed approach with the houses of worship. We had a meeting with all the interfaith leaders a couple of days ago. We have formed a working group with them. And I have to credit them for their leadership. Whether it's the Islamic Society of Massachusetts, the Coalition of Rabbis for the Commonwealth and even the archdiocese is about slow rolling this out, because we all want to get it right. They want to protect their congregations, their clergy and the public at large. You had a faith leader on before I came on, and in my opinion, [we need] faith in our lives more than ever in this crisis, in this time, in this country and the world, to heal our minds and to help us sustain for the emotional and mental duress of the situation. But we want to do so in a way that protects everyone. And if we want people to come out to our businesses again, they need to be confident that we're adhering to the social compact that we have with them — this contract of trust that we're doing everything to protect our workers, our customers and the community at large.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Minneapolis.