Is Spicer Administration Sending Mixed Messages on Recreational Activities With Framingham In High-Risk Category For COVID?

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FRAMINGHAM – In late August, Framingham became one of the high-risk communities for the Coronavirus, according to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As of Wednesday, Framingham is 12th in the state for cases and 6th in state for rate of infection.

The City’s Health Director Sam Wong and the City’s Mayor Yvonne Spicer both said large gatherings were contributing to the increase in cases.

Mayor Spicer said she “closed down basketball courts and skate parks and places people have been gathering.”

But the City’s Parks & Recreation Department is still encouraging individuals and families to register and pay for athletic & recreational programming.

Yesterday, the Parks & Recreation Department posted photos of the tennis clinic and a senior citizen exercise class.

The photos angered several, who responded on the Parks & Recreation Facebook page.

“This is foul … we got members of the community relying of the FREE help of local men and women trying to better our youth .. and not 50 yards from these courts of tennis…..the rims on the basketball hoops have been taken down. If you look at this picture there are atleast 10 people. A game of basketball consists of the same. Can someone from the town please tell me why your taking away opportunities for kids with no means other than local free training and are exempt from using these facilities?? I pay taxes for everyone. Not just the select few,” posted David Hepp on the City’s Facebook page.

“But you close the skatepark even when the people their have masks on? Massachusetts just proving to the rest of the country how quickly your “freedoms” can be lost.Absolutely pathetic,” posted Dan Finnegan on the Facebook page.

“Open the skatepark then this is completely not fair at all not to mention like 1000 ft to the left of the skatepark people are allowed to use the small playground lol makes a lot of sense,” posted Nick Fanini on the City’s Facebook page.

“Yvonne Spicer Framingham Mayor really? This is so sad, colored kids got their hoops taken down when adults were offering free clinics from their own pocket but this is okay. Do something ASAP do what’s right! Shame on Framingham, Massachusetts,” wrote Jay Spaddy on the City of Framingham’s Parks & Recreation Facebook page. “This is disgusting. So many people sleep on what’s really going on in this town. This is a bad disgusting post especially because Framingham shut down an a basketball clinic for a predominantly colored kids while they were playing and a week later you post this. This is an embarrassment. Yvonne Spicer Framingham Mayor.”

SOURCE reached out to Mayor Yvonne Spicer this morning for comment. As of the posting of this report, she did not respond.

SOURCE also reached out to Parks & Recreation Director James Synder who responded within minutes.

“Thank you for seeking clarification on the COVID restrictions and pictures posted on our website,” said Synder.

SOURCE asked why the seniors in the exercise program were not wearing masks? Why tennis, which requires a payment from individuals and families, is permitted? But using the free skate park or the basketball courts in the city is now prohibited? The news outlet also asked why Parks & Recreation recently gave the green light to the fall youth baseball & softball programs and yet the skate park and the city’s basketball courts are closed?

“The difference is that everyone is 6 feet apart and wearing masks in the Parks and Recreation and COA (Council on Aging) programs,” said Synder about the outdoor 55+ senior aerobics class held at Bowditch Field.

“Baker-Polito Administration has ordered all residents over the age of two to use a face covering or mask in public places where maintaining proper social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are not possible,” according to the state.

But the order requires everyone over the age of 2 to wear a face covering at organized gatherings of more than 10 people involving more than one household. That includes private indoor or backyard house parties, and one would guess that includes outdoor exercise classes, too.

“As with all of our programs and permits for other sports, they have been vetted by the Health Department and are monitored by staff with specifIc protocols to reduce exposure as much as possible,” said Synder.

“Framingham is in Code red, threat level three with the potential for more “hot spots” popping up. Everyone has witnessed and far people have commented on the lack of mask wearing at the skatepark and full contact basketball on a court packed with players and spectators. They made the list of high risk activities thanks to the lack of COVID cooperation,” said the Parks & Recreation Director.

The Spicer administration closed the skate parks & basketball courts on August 28, two days after the City was deemed high-risk for the virus by the state. Parks & Recreation posted photos from the Skate Park on August 13, and all individuals were wearing masks (see below).

“I hope this helps clarify that there has not been any preferential treatment. In fact. the departments mentioned have been expected to provide healthy outdoor activities all summer and going forward though the pandemic. The Police, Health Department and I are working with the community to get the message out that if people would just follow the Governor’s COVID Guidelines we can open up everything much sooner,” said Synder.

“The lack of any southside representation on Park Commission allows its beach gate to remain locked, contaminated soil to go unreported, and athletic activities to be halted, while their northside counterparts are open, reported and active. Is that the equity and fairness we were promised,” said southside City Councilor John Stefanini, who represents District 8.

“Lastly, we want everyone to enjoy our programs and services. As always, we would work towards providing a scholarships for those experiencing financial hardship for any of our program,” said Synder, in regards to the question that free sports are prohibited and sports families have to pay for are allowed.

Photos of tennis posted by Framingham Parks & Recreation yesterday, September 4.

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