UPDATED: Framingham Health Board Rescinds COVID Orders; Remote Meetings To End June 15

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By Grace Mayer

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FRAMINGHAM – Virtual meetings, face coverings, social distancing, and restaurant seating limits will no longer be required in the City of Framingham, after the Framingham Board of Health voted unanimously to repeal COVID-19 orders issued over the past year during a special Zoom meeting Monday night, May 24.

The Mayor is expected to sign to rescind her votes, that coincide with these orders on Wednesday, May 25.

The vote was “to be fully consistent with and mirror the order of Governor (Charlie) Baker” that goes into effect on May 29, lifting and relaxing COVID orders as of May 29.

After over a year of precautionary COVID-19 mandates, the Framingham Board of Health has rolled back on these measures—changes that will go into effect on Saturday, May 29. 

The Board of Health members – Chair Gillian Carcia, Vice Chair Dr. David Moore, and and Laura Housman – unanimously voted on repealing seven orders that they had passed in order to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On June 15, 2021, Framingham Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer ’s state of emergency, which began March 10, 2020, the same day governor Baker declared a state of emergency, also will be end. The Governor’s state of emergency for the Commonwealth ends on June 15 also.

When the State and City emergencies end, in-person meetings of City boards, committees, and commissions can resume to full in-person meetings, and must be the state’s Open Meeting Law requirements.

All in-person meetings, except for the City’s legislative branch, the Framingham City Council, have been required to be virtual since March 16, 2020.

The Framingham City Council plans to return to full, in-person meetings starting June 1.

Under the Mayor’s 2019 remote meeting policy, a quorum of any board, committee, or commission must be present in person, along with its chair, but other members could participate in the meeting remotely.

Self-service food operations, including buffets and salad bars, lottery sales, and personal care services—all of which risked violating social distancing guidelines—will be reinstated, after the Framingham Board of Health’s Monday night vote.

The vote will also lift the ban enacted on March 24, 2020 that had sanctioned in-person services, including hair salons, barbershops, beauty parlors, massage therapy sessions, body art shops, beauty parlors, nail salons, spas, gyms, and tanning salons. 

To prevent the spread of the virus, last year a series of orders were issued by the Mayor and the Board of Health to limit in-person contact. 

Parking tickets and penalties for late payments were waived by an order issued back on April 10, 2020, to eliminate contact between city officials and Framingham residents.

A week after this order was issued, another was passed that required people to wear face masks and abide to social distancing in public, while all nonessential businesses would have to shutter its services. 

On September 25, 2020, another COVID order was passed by the Mayor and Board of Health limiting the number of people seated at a restaurant table or bar to six people.  

As voted on by the Framingham Health Board on May 24, all of these orders were rescinded.

Before voting on repealing the final order, which addressed the temporary stall placed on home evictions, the Health Board accepted an amendment proposed by former Framingham Health Board member Michael Hugo, who is now Director Of Government Affairs at Massachusetts Association of Health Boards.

The amendment stated that the suspension, originally put into effect on February 9, 2021, would be lifted, “Except insofar as a tenant against whom an eviction proceeding has been initiated and who has applied for relief under a state or federal program, and whose application is pending as of the date of this vote.”

Board members agreed that this amendment would grant homeowners additional time to receive relief from the government before facing eviction. 

Alexander DePalo, the interim Board of Health Director, lawyer Amanda Zuretti, Noelia V., David Miles, chairman of the board of the Fuller Middle School Building Committee, Kristina Johnson, Framingham Planning Board chair, and Pat Smith were also in attendance at the meeting. 

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Johnson and Miles both spoke. The two also recently submitted a letter to the City about what fully in-person meetings will look like in a post pandemic world.

The meeting also occurred following the Mayor’s recent announcement of her candidate for Framingham Health Director Monifa Charles.

DePalo has been the interim Health Director, after previous Health Director Dr. Wong resigned at the end of 2020. 

Weighing the next steps toward re-opening Framingham, the Framingham Board of Health scheduled its next meeting on June 14. 

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Grace Mayer is a senior at Boston College studying marketing and journalism. She is also the head arts editor for Boston College’s newspaper, The Heights, where she’s covered the arts beat for three years. She is excited to report on a variety of beats for Framingham SOURCE this summer. You can contact her at gemayer007@gmail.com

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