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FRAMINGHAM – The Spicer Administration is reporting it has no “written” plan to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the City of Framingham.

In responding to a September 25 FOIA request by SOURCE, the Spicer administration said yesterday, October 5, “The State requires schools are to have a plan, not cities/towns. There are no responsive records for this request.”

Basically, since the Commonwealth does not require a written plan, the City of Framingham said it does not have one.

SOURCE had request a copy of the City’s written COVID plan and or its written list of action items to stop the spread of the virus in the City.

The City of Framingham has been designated a high-risk community for the spread of the coronavirus since the end of August.

Tomorrow, will be six weeks as a high-risk community.

Yesterday, Framingham Public Schools Superintendent Bob Tremblay announced that hybrid learning would not start in November but has been pushed back to January 2021.

And the numbers just keep increasing. Yesterday, the City reported 44 new COVID-19 cases since Friday.

SOURCE asked the City for clarification on the FOIA response last night, and Mayor Yvonne Spicer for clarification today, and received from the City’s spokesperson Kelly McFalls today “there are no responsive records for this request.” (See emails below)

“With over 130 fatalities across the city from this deadly virus, it is unconscionable that the City does not have a formal plan for reducing the spread,” said Framingham State Representatives Jack Patrick Lewis and Maria Robinson, in a joint statement. “Every business that reopens needs to have a written plan in place. Every school district needs to have one. At this point in the pandemic with the severity seen in the city, Framingham should also have a plan.”

Rep. Robinson & Lewis have been attending Mayor Spicer’s COVID briefings with City leadership three times a week, along with City Council Chair George P. King. Jr.

To be fair, the City is not doing nothing, even though it says it does not have a written COVID plan it can provide to the public.

The City has closed down the skatepark and the city’s basketball courts.

The City says it is cracking down on the large gatherings and parties, which the mayor and Dr. Wong have repeatedly said is one of the reasons for the upswing in new cases since August.

The City is now fining $500 individuals who violate the Governor’s gathering order. The first fine was issued on September 11.

“I am not surprised there is not a plan, I have not seen anything that indicates a plan.  Great effort has been made to close the skate park with no indication it was the scene of transmissions.  Outdoor basketball courts are closed but paid park and recreation programs are plentiful.  The health department has done virtually no enforcement of the many regulations they rightfully put in place, to the detriment of the vast majority who comply willingly.  I do not doubt people are putting in effort, but a lack of a thoughtful and coordinated plan results in the inconsistencies we are seeing.  I hope we can focus our efforts in a manner that will produce the results we all want to see,” said King to SOURCE today, October 6.

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Framingham is also one of six communities in the Commonwealth out of 351 receiving assistance from the state for help in stopping the spread of the virus.

For the last four weeks, the state has been supplying multi-lingual outreach teams to canvas areas of the City where the virus is increasing. Most of the outreach has been focused in downtown Framingham, in Districts 7-8-9, churches, and multi-family apartment complexes.

In August, when Framingham became a high-risk community, Dr. Wong discussed where the cases were coming from.

The Baker-Polito Administration and the Commonwealth are also offering free testing sites in the City of Framingham for residents through the end of October.

The City’s Health Director has recommended that every resident be tested for COVID-19.

The Mayor wrote in the City’s annual report: “

In the face of this uncertainty, I am proud of how employees came together to benefit our City. The pandemic tested our fortitude, creativity, and in some cases, courage, and the City responded. We mailed postcards to more than 12,000 households of people 55 and older, alerting them to emergency call numbers and resources. The Public Health Division and the Framingham Public Library collaborated to distribute more than 10,000 reusable face coverings. Framingham’s City Clerk’s Office created a new, safe environment to hold elections. Our communications team issued 142 COVID-19 related press releases and set up new, regular methods to share new information and resources across the City, including a Zoom Community Hour and a new texting program.”

“To say that I am disappointed is an understatement,” said District 6 City Council Phil Ottaviani Jr. “Our Mayor and her public health experts need to be proactive instead of reactive. Framingham is going in the wrong direction and it is only getting worse.”

Ottaviani said the “Mayor and her leadership team issue emergency responses and action plans for everything snowstorms, power outages, crime and major fires to not have a plan with action items in place for the coronavirus shows a lack of leadership and direction for our city. Leaders lead by example. Dr. Wong advised all residents to be tested. I went and git tested. My wife lost her mother Anna Ventuto, my mother-in-law and my daughter Julia’s grandmother to this deadly virus while living in a Framingham nursing home. This is personal to me. The Mayor and the health department need to educate and do much more to get Framingham out of the high-risk red designation.”

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“We as a community need a clear plan with benchmarks, that we are constantly adjusting to keep resident safe,” said at-large City Council Janet Leombruno.

“The communities having the greatest success are the ones where leadership has collaboratively develop a nimble and responsive plan; and then executed that plan while making adjustments along the way as new information becomes available. To learn that no such plan exists for Framingham after repeated assurances from Mayor Spicer is truly disturbing,” said District 4 City Councilor Michael Cannon.

“Increasing COVID cases in Framingham is having a detrimental impact on all of our residents including our families, our older adults, and our businesses, and we must be doing everything in our power to slow the spread of the disease. This should include a comprehensive coordinated effort by our city aimed at education and enforcement of health guidelines. It is also essential that every resident of Framingham do their part: wear masks whenever you are in public, get tested at one of our free testing sites, and stay home and contact your doctor if you are feeling sick,” said District 3 City Councilor Adam Steiner.

The City of Framingham has issued numerous press release on their COVID action, and the Mayor has made videos asking people to wear a mask and not to host gatherings. The library has been collecting and distributing face coverings to residents.

“As the last week demonstrates, no one is immune from this virus, no one; further, the actions of a few impact all of us. Only by working together, utilizing all of our resources, will we protect our residents from this pandemic,’ said District 8 City Councilor John Stefanini.

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After nine months; there has to be a plan. The virus has killed over 130 of our residents. Schools and businesses have been forced to close for months with only limited re-opening for a lot of them.  We’re a known hotspot. How can there not be a plan? Wow!,” said former at-large City Councilor Cheryl Tully Stoll. “Our police need to be requested by the Mayor to break-up illegal gatherings of large groups of people. Without that, we’ve got no chance of gaining ground. The super-spreader behavior has to be stopped in its tracks.”

Framingham now has a rate of 12.89 cases per day per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days. (The state considers a community red at 8.0 cases).

As of yesterday, there are 145 active cases in the City of Framinghm, and another 122 residents in quarantine.

Since the pandemic began 137 residents have died, and 2,324 residents have tested positive out of more than 70,000 residents.

The lastest data from the City of Framingham shows an increase in cases from those of which English is not their first language.

Framingham Public Schools has a detailed plan of more than 60 pages to deal with the coronavirus.

But six weeks as a red community or high-risk coronavirus community is now having an impact on the school district and its more than 9,000 students.

As mentioned above, the Framingham Public Schools are now delaying its COVID plan, as the City has been a high-risk community for the virus for the last 6 weeks and the numbers are not decreasing.

““The local surge of cases in Framingham is extremely concerning, and the result is keeping us all in the state’s red zone. This red label means the focused and thoughtful back to school plan that Framingham Public School, the School Committee, and educators gave up their summer to develop cannot be implemented as we all hoped. Our city, state, and nation’s leaders must all refocus and decide how much longer we want to be in this now chronic situation. It will not go away without a comprehensive approach following the advice of public health experts. I expect Mayor Spicer is continuing on with what has been done since March, yet I’d encourage the Mayor to make some additional changes to ramp it up. This is not a time to hold back on enforcement actions to go all out to stop the spread,” said School Committee Chair Adam Freudberg.

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“The recent numbers in Framingham are certainly alarming and very disappointing. We can and must do better for the children of Framingham. They need to be in classrooms, face-to-face, for optimal learning to take place. We need everyone to do their part, in order to make that happen,” said School Committee Vice Chair Tiffanie Maskell. 

Maskell, who represents District 7, said “Last week, we (the School Committee) made it a priority to promote public health and safety measures, in an effort to help reduce Framingham’s COVID-19 numbers. These top 7 measures must consistently be followed by everyone in order for Framingham to improve and our students to return to the classroom:       

1. Wear a mask

2. Get a flu shot        

3. Practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet        

4. Wash your hands         

5. No in-person social gatherings         

6. Monitor symptoms         

7. Visit a free drive-through COVID-19 testing site (Walsh Middle School and other outdoor sites)

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.