FRAMINGHAM – For the sixth week in a row, the City of Framingham is a red community or high-risk community for the coronavirus.
In the last 14 days, there have been 163 new cases of the coronavirus in Framingham, including 44 cases announced on Monday. That was the single-highest total announced since the spring.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has Framingham’s numbers higher this week, not lower.
The City of Framingham is averaging 12.8 cases per day (up from 12.5 last week) per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days. The state considers a community high risk if 8.0 or higher.
On Tuesday night, District 7 City Councilor Margareth Shepard said “We keep going higher and higher. We need a different strategy, to try to contain this spread in Framingham.”
The City’s latest data showed on Monday, that a majority of the cases are from individuals who whom Spanish and Portuguese is their prime language.
“We need to work with the immigrant leaders,” said Shepard. “We know where the spread is occurring and which part of the community, and why it is occurring.”
Shepard said the outreach teams the state is providing the City of Framingham over the weekend “is not doing anything tohelp us.”
“The State can help us. We need help to contain the virus,” said Shepard. “We need results.”
Tuesday night, City of Framingham Chief Operation Officer Thatcher Kezer III told Shepard “I know the Mayor has regular conversations with the Lt. Governor and the other Mayor’s who are all facing this challenge. It is an ongoing effort.”
In responding to a September 25 FOIA request by SOURCE, the Spicer administration said on Monday, October 5, “The State requires schools are to have a plan, not cities/towns. There are no responsive records for this request.”
The news outlet asked Mayor Yvonne Spicer and her administration for clarification, evening asking if the City had a list of action items. The response was the same.
Tuesday night, City of Framingham Chief Operation Officer Thatcher Kezer III said “I don’t know of any municipality that has a written plan.”
The City of Boston has had a written plan since March, and even hired a crisis management team to fine-tune its plan and action items.
On August 19, after the City of Lawrence became a high-risk community, Mayor Daniel Rivera with the City of Lawrence Board of Health announced a three-point written action plan to attack the current public COVID-19 health crisis.
“Public health numbers for Lawrence continue to trend in the wrong direction. If the spread is so profound that kids can’t be in classrooms, then we must act swiftly and intentionally to combat Coronavirus in our community,” said Mayor Rivera, back in August. “Being a High Risk community is a scarlet letter and we all should be concerned. This plan will start with strong enforcement of loud music calls that will be treated as possible spread events, which will include taking the Governor up on his offer of using State Police for assistance with enforcement, and, follow-up with individual travelers returning to Lawrence to ensure they are following the Governor’s guidance regarding quarantine measures, and the roll-back of food service hours to avoid prolonged exposure and contact.
Kezer told the City Council “you don’t have a plan you have an incident response.”
He explained the City is responding to COVID-19 incidents and taking action as they happen.
The COO said you pull a team together and you meet.
Kezer said the first three months, the city’s leadership team met “every day, seven days a week.”
But since Framingham has become a high-risk community in late August, the City’s COVID team is only meeting three days a week, said Kezer.
“What we don’t do is write a bunch of documents, and put it in a binder, on a shelf,” said Kezer, when questioned about a lack of a written plan on dealing with COVID-19 in the City of Framingham.
“We meet. We discuss, as a leadership team, what actions need to be taken, and we do, we respond. That is what we have been doing,” said Kezer.
That means there is no documentation written down on the actions and no documentation if anything is actually completed.
“Putting paper documents in a binder, isn’t going to get things done,” Kezer told the City Council Tuesday night.
“Other communities seem to be developing a plan, and executing it, not putting it in a binder,” said City Councilor Michael Cannon. “I have been hearing from you and the Mayor that we have a plan for many months. It is often followed by ‘There is no playbook. We were not given a playbook, but we have a plan.’ To hear from the Mayor’s office in that written FOIA request that there was no plan and to hear you reference it as something we would put in a binder. Other communities are doing a better job.”
Neighboring Natick is a green community and Ashland went from a yellow community to a green community this week. Marlborough is a red community like Framingham.
“I think we have done a good job,” said Kezer to the 11-member City Council Tuesday,
Framingham is one of six communities the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Baker-Polito administration is providing additional assistance.
Since early September, the state has provided multi-lingual outreach teams, multi-lingual flyers, free masks and sanitizer.
The Commonwealth is providing resources for three free COVID testing sites in the City of Framingham since August until the end of October.
Shepard said she receives a lot of calls from residents about the free testing. She said the State and the City of Framingham need to expand the free testing beyond October 31. “October will not be enough,” said Shepard on Tuesday night.
The State, via Fallon Ambulance, is providing free drive-thru testing at Walsh Middle School Mondays through Saturday from 9 a.m.to 1 p.m.
There is a walk-up testing site at Amazing Things on Hollis Street Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m.
And SMOC HQ at 7 Bishop Street is hosting testing Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 3 to 6 p.m.
The State has also included Framingham in its new COVID commercials, also including Lawrence, Everett, Revere, Chelsea, and Lynn.
But the state has offered other resources to these half-dozen communities.
Statewide Enforcement and Intervention team can provide:
- Targeted interventions and inspections by a range of member agencies, including Local Services, Labor Standards, DPH, MSP and ABCC, coordinated by EOPSS and MEMA.
- Increased enforcement, including fines, of sector guidance for businesses to ensure businesses and residents are aware of and following COVID-19 orders.
- Cease and desist orders as necessary for businesses and organizations in violation of the COVID-19 orders.
- Support for ABCC and local licensing boards in exercising their existing authority to fine restaurants or suspend or cancel liquor licenses when restaurants do not comply with required COVID-19 safety measure or sanitation codes.
- Targeted public messaging to alert residents of higher risk COVID communities (road signs, PSAs, reverse 911, etc.).
- Technical support to local government officials to support enhanced local COVID-19 prevention efforts such as assistance in accessing CARES Act funding.
- Potential restrictions or shutdowns for parks, playgrounds, businesses or other entities and locations believed to be contributing to the COVID-19 spread in higher risk COVID-19 communities.
- Additional public health support such as testing, tracing and quarantining
It is unknown if the City of Framingham has requested any of these resources.
SOURCE emailed the City’s Health Director and Mayor that specific question on Tuesday, and as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday no response.