FRAMINGHAM – The City of Framingham has issued $3,500 worth of COVID fines since September.
The City of Framingham issued its first fine on September 11 to Halstead apartments on Route 9, for a violation of the Governor’s COVID gathering orders.
The second $500 fine was issued a couple of weeks later to the owner of Cotton Candy Party Production, after police were called to a Concord Street apartment building, where after-hour parties were taking place n the basement with DJ, alcohol, and few wearing masks.
Since that time, the City’s Health Department has issued five more COVID fines at $500 each, for a total of 7 fines totalling $3,500.
“This Monday, we decided enough time had passed when when we said there should be no gatherings, to forgo the warning letter, and just issued the $500 fines for violations,” said Health Director Sam Wong.
“If you think about having a backyard party, now is not the time,” said Framingham Health Director Sam Wong to the 3-member Framingham Board of Health in August. “if you think about going to someone’s backyard party, now is not the time.”
Wong said with the city a red or high-risk community it “does not matter whether you are having a party fitting to the state’s cap on the numbers, it doesn’t matter anymore. Having a party. having a get together with different households is not recommended at this point.”
Wong said some of the City of Framingham’s new COVID-19 cases “are coming due to gatherings.”
Governor’s COVID Gathering Order
In Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker revised the large gatherings order in August. For indoor gatherings, the maximum is 25 people in a single enclosed area. For outdoor gatherings, there is a maximum of 50 people in a single space. For smaller spaces, a limit of 25 percent of the area’s legal maximum occupancy — or eight people per 1,000 square feet where no occupancy is recorded.
But the Governor’s 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.
Wong encouraged “everybody to not have gatherings outside of immediate family<‘ to reduce the number of new cases of COVID-19.
Framingham Issuing Fines
In Framingham, for single-family homes, it is the property owner or the renters of the homes who could be fined.
For multi-family dwellings, such as apartment and condominium complexes, the City will work to identify the one hosting the gathering to determine who should be fined. If the event is held in a common area of an apartment or condominium complex, the property owner could be liable if the City is unable to identify the person who organized the gathering.
The Framingham Health Department is responsible for enforcing the Covid-19 restrictions and the Police Department is responsible for assisting the Health Department. We will continue to receive reports and respond to large gatherings and groups until this global pandemic ends and the restrictions are lifted, said the police department through its spokesperson Lt. Patricia Grigas.
Responding officers will collect and document as much of the following information as legally and practically possible under the circumstances:
- The correct address, including apartment number (if applicable) of the incident;
- The home / property owner’s name and identifying information;
- The name and identifying information of the host and/or person in control of the premises;
- An estimate of the number of persons present, both inside and outside;
- The number of persons wearing and/or not wearing masks;
- Whether or not social distancing is being maintained;
- Whether or not there are violations of the Governor’s Covid-19 orders and, if so, a description of the violations;
- If a gathering appears to violate the order, officers shall inform the host of the violation(s) and request compliance;
- Document any compliance or non-compliance.
“The Police Report documenting the violations, will be forwarded to the Framingham Health Department and they will impose a $500 fine for violations. Officers shall strongly encourage voluntary compliance with the Covid-19 restrictions,” said the department today.
On Tuesday, Acting Police Chief Ron Brandolini issued this statement:
“The Framingham Police Department is committed to assisting the Framingham Health Department with the enforcement of the Governor’s, Mayor’s and Health Directors Covid-19 Executive Orders to the fullest extent that the law and practicalities allow. Officers have been ordered to respond to reports of large groups and gatherings and to collect and document as much information as possible under the circumstances. The pertinent information that is documented will be forwarded to the Framingham Health Department who will then impose fines. Officers will also educate persons present at these gatherings regarding the restrictions and request compliance. Officers lack the legal authority to enter private premises without consent, a warrant, or exigent circumstances. Also, there is no right of arrest for alleged Covid-19 violations and there is no legal requirement that an individual produce identification or provide his or her true name in these situations. These legal constraints may hinder the Police Department’s ability to provide as much information to the Health Department as we would like. Nevertheless, we remain firmly committed to assist the Health Department to the fullest extent possible. I encourage the public to comply with the Governor’s restrictions and to postpone large gatherings until it is safe for them to resume.”