In the town’s COVID-19 update for Friday, the Board of Health included a link to a memo regarding the closure of the outdoor basketball courts at the schools. Earlier this week the rims were removed from all the backboards to prevent anyone from playing at the courts outside the middle school and Hopkins, and the rims were boarded up at Elmwood. That move elicited a strong response, with a number of residents calling town officials to express their frustration.
Crowds of players had been gathering at the courts nightly over the past few weeks to shoot around. Last Friday a group of high school and college players from outside Hopkinton showed up and played organized pickup games, which are not yet allowed under the state’s reopening plan.
According to the Board of Health memo, players were warned that they needed to practice proper social distancing, but the message was not well-received.
“The participants refused to distance or wear face coverings, cut the hoop ties that had been installed [an earlier attempt to discourage playing], removed the signage that had been posted and continued to ignore the regulations issued by the [state],” the memo reads, adding: “The illegal activities represented a public health nuisance and potential public health risk to the residents of Hopkinton.”
Below is the complete memo from the Board of Health:
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs have designated Basketball as a high risk sport that has a requirement or substantial likelihood of routine close and/or sustained proximity or deliberate physical contact between participants and a high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants. As such, the Governor’s Team has restricted Higher Risk sports and activities to non-contact workouts, aerobic conditioning, individual skill work and drills. Competitive practices and competitions are not permitted unless they meet or exceed Minimum Mandatory Standards for Modification of Play. Embedded within the Governor’s Workplace Safety and Reopening Standard exists a singular common theme, reflected in Order 35, face coverings are required when social distancing cannot be met.
During the months of July and August 2020, the Hopkinton Health Department received numerous calls and complaints about the large numbers of older youth and adults congregating on the Middle School basketball courts for pick-up games and competitive play. To address the non-compliant play, signage was posted at the court by the Health Department. Municipal representatives and community stakeholders met with the participants to discuss the regulations that had been imposed by the Governor’s Team to combat the pandemic. The participants refused to distance or wear face coverings, cut the hoop ties that had been installed, removed the signage that had been posted and continued to ignore the regulations issued by the Governor’s Team.
Whereas the municipality cannot condone the use of their property for illegal activities, the illegal activities represented a public health nuisance and potential public health risk to the residents of Hopkinton and the illegal activity runs contrary to our collective efforts to support a safe and healthy reentry to school, the Hopkinton Health Department, after consult with the Emergency Management Group, instructed the Hopkinton School Department facilities team to remove the basketball hoops. The action is not permanent and will be reversed once such play is permitted by the Commonwealth.