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Franklin Day Canceled, Covid Cases Blamed

Chart prepared by Mayor Phil Kramer shows the differences in cumulative infection rates last year and this year.

A steep increase in the number of Franklin residents contracting the coronavirus led the Township Council on September 14 to cancel the Franklin Day festival.

This year’s festival, set for September 18, was designed to be a vastly scaled-down version of the event that is usually held in Colonial Park and has drawn 20,000 to 30,000 people.

Plans were to hold the event in the Municipal Complex parking lot off DeMott Lane.

Unlike past years, there were to be no food vendors this year; only not-for-profit organizations and township-affiliated groups were to have tables.

Franklin Day was also canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus.

It was hoped that it would be safe to hold the scaled-down festival, what with the advent of three vaccines for the virus and a gradual return to “normal” after the lockdowns that started in March 2020 and lasted for more than a year.

But statistics provided by Mayor Phil Kramer show that the average weekly rate of township residents contracting the virus is more than three times greater than it was this time last year: the seven-day average as of September 13 was 11.9 new cases, while the seven-day average as of September 13, 2020 was 3.6 cases, according to Kramer’s statistics.

On July 14, the day after the Township Council voted to return to in-person meetings, a total of 6,154 Franklin residents had tested positive for the virus since mid-March 2020. The Council reversed itself two weeks later, after Covid-19 cases began to rapidly increase.

Just two months later, on September 14, a total of 6,732 Franklin residents have contracted the virus, an increase of 578.

“We’re clearly accumulating cases much more quickly now than we were,” Kramer said at the virtual Council meeting.

“I personally do not wish to be the cause of us putting our citizens in harm’s way,” he said. “While it is a great day to celebrate Franklin, I am concerned about us trying to celebrate Franklin while putting citizens in jeopardy.”

The Council members agreed with Kramer.

“As a funeral director, I see the end point of families coming to me and having to make funeral arrangements, and their loved one has Covid,” said Councilman Carl Wright (D-Ward 4). “This month only has 14 days in, and I’ve had three already.”

“I am very hesitant to put people together, even though they have a right to,” he said.

“We have an obligation to keep people safe,” said Councilwoman Crystal Pruitt (D-At Large). “While there are things opening, you can go on vacations and trips … we’re not done with the pandemic yet.”

“The threat hasn’t gone, so for me … as a government entity whose job is to make the best decisions on behalf of the residents to keep them safe, to me this sounded like something that we needed to put aside,” she said. “It’s safer than it was before because of vaccines, but we’re not in the clear. There are still variants, still people needing to get vaccinated. I’m just not comfortable as a government body sponsoring an event that encourages people getting closer to each other in a way that may not be safe.”

Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) pointed out that the Township Council also acts as the township Board of Health.

“Part of our responsibility is to keep the public healthy,” she said.

“We have a moral responsibility for the safety of our residents, and we do not want to put anybody in harm’s way,” Councilman Ram Anbarasan (D-At Large) said. “I think it would be prudent to postpone Franklin Day to next year, hopefully by then we will have much better control.”

Councilwoman Shepa Uddin (D-Ward 2) said that perhaps “we’ll be able to open up next year bigger, hopefully better. I know there’s a lot of concerns. I just want to say that we are looking out for you guys.”

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