By Luke Canavan
FRAMINGHAM – Mayor Yvonne Spicer and Interim Public Health Director Alexandra DePalo held a virtual community hour on Tuesday, March 16, to update residents on Framingham’s progress with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and distribution.
As of data released on March 15, 2021, Framingham has had a total of 7123 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 5566 of those cases having fully recovered. There are currently 536 residents in quarantine and 1324 residents in isolation. There have been a total of 233 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19.
There are 23,856 Framingham residents who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 8320 residents who have been fully vaccinated.
DePalo said that in order for Framingham to begin to achieve herd immunity, at least 85% of adult residents will have to be vaccinated, or at least 51,000 people.
The state of Massachusetts plans to move to Phase IV, Step One of their reopening plan on March 22, which increases the public gathering limits to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors. Private gatherings will remain at a limit of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Stadiums will also be reopening at 12% capacity.
The state travel order will be changing as well. Those who have been vaccinated will no longer be required to adhere to the state’s test-or-quarantine travel limits as long as they have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days.
A main conversation topic of the community hour was the discussion of how Framingham has been named one of the top 20 “equity cities” in the state, meaning that it is one of the cities that has been most disproportionately affected by the virus.
This means that Framingham now has the ability to provide communities that have been under-resourced in the past with additional help, including people of color, non-English speakers, residents with disabilities, and residents who do not have access to transportation.
DePalo also said the City is working on trying to set up a system for people to access free transportation, if needed, to and from appointments.
“We are going to work with transportation options… That is also in the works to figure out how we set up a simple system for residents that have a transportation barrier,” said DePalo.
One major concern from the residents pertained to religious groups that are specifically against receiving the vaccine. In response to this concern, both Mayor Spicer and DePalo discussed the various ongoing Zoom calls and informational sessions led by healthcare professionals that specifically cater to these groups and work toward educating them on the benefits of receiving the vaccine.
Another issue DePalo brought up is the separation of people rigidly by age. Even if two people live in the same household, one might not be able to get vaccinated because they are five years younger than the other person in the house that qualifies. Although it is not a preferable way to address vaccine rollout, it is just something that the city and state have to deal with in the given moment.
“It’s something that we would never prefer – to think about groups of people in these ways,” said DePalo. “We share that challenge and we advocate clearly to our state liaison… We look forward to that changing, and we acknowledge the reality that we’re in right now.”
Mayor Spicer wanted to remind everyone that currently people can not choose which vaccine they receive.
The City of Framingham has mostly been given doses of the Moderna vaccine, so this is likely what people will be receiving in the near future.
The last time the City had first dose of vaccines was a month ago on February 13, said the City’s spokesperson.
As vaccines become more and more available, it may be possible Framingham will have multiple brands for people to have the option of receiving, but currently this is not the case, said the Mayor.
DePalo reminded everyone it has been a team effort and it will continue to be a team effort as we shift into the spring and future rollout of the vaccine.
DePalo finished with a reminder that while many more people are becoming vaccinated, it is still important to take precautions.
“We are still practicing hand hygiene, we are still wearing our face masks, and we are still social distancing,” said DePalo. “We’re getting there. We’re almost there. The light is there.”
There are currently two free COVID-19 Project Beacon testing facilities operating in Framingham, located at 484 Franklin Street (in the Framingham State University Commuter Parking Lot), and 562 Waverly Street (indoors at the Father Maschi Parish Center). Both testing sites are by appointment only.
Anyone who has trouble booking a vaccination appointment online can call 2-1-1. Hours of operation are from 8:30 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,
Luke Canavan is a spring 2021 SOURCE intern. He is currently a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studies Communication and English. He is passionate about film, television, writing, and literature, and upon graduation, he hopes to work in the entertainment industry full-time, where he can pursue his love for storytelling.