Ptown Select Board Member Ignites Controversy with Viral Post

Monday March 30, 2020

Travel to Provincetown during the COVID-19 crisis became an issue this past week when Select Board member Lise King "posted a Facebook message on Thursday that she found painful to write,"the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

"TO ANYONE THINKING ABOUT COMING TO PTOWN," she started. "PLEASE make yourself aware of our circumstances and make an informed choice," she said. "If you come here and fall ill you are taking a risk that we won't have the capacity to help you." By Sunday night, Provincetown had two confirmed cases of the virus, a shelter-in-place order and a parking ban for nonresidents."

Her Facebook post (no longer on her feed) was picked up by the Washington Post in a story entitled, "'Stay on the mainland': Tensions grow as affluent city dwellers fearing coronavirus retreat to second home," which led to a backlash in Provincetown where locals criticized King's post.

The website reports that Select Board Chair David Abramson "condemned the actions of a fellow board member for spreading what he says is false information about the COVID-19 crisis."

Without naming King by name, he addressed the harm caused by this Facebook post. "The result of these statements created an atmosphere of fear, anxiety and animosity between the residents of our town and the second homeowners," Abramson said in the statement.

"When asked Thursday night to confirm whether the statement was speaking specifically about King, Abramson said, 'I'll let my statement stand on its own," reports.

Asked by the Banner on Friday, King clarified that all posts were made on her personal Facebook page and she was not trying to represent the Select Board with them, but looking to share information with residents.

"These have been rational decisions based on data and trying to get people to pay attention and respect the fact that we have a higher per-capita group of vulnerable people in this town," King said. "I always do my very best to report things as accurately and completely as possible."

In the Times report, which King acknowledged that what prompted her posting on Facebook on the first day: "she had heard reports about plane after plane touching down at the tiny Provincetown airport."

Abramson countered that "he checked with the chair of the Provincetown Airport Commission and was told there was no increased activity at the airport last week," reports.

"Whether or not there are a lot of people coming in on airplanes on any one particular day and arguing with that as a point of fact is a strawman for the real concern which is about the number of people who've been coming to Provincetown in the last two weeks,"King responded.

But at the heart of Abramson's criticism is the unwelcoming tone of King's post.

"What is exceedingly troubling is that by using her elected position, she allowed hundreds of thousands of people to think that Provincetown is an unwelcoming town," Abramson said. "This could not be further from the truth."

On Thursday, town manager Robin Craver wrote in a statement: "There is much discussion on social media about residents, non-residents, year-rounders and second homeowners. These labels and social media conversations are causing fear and discord at a time when we need care, compassion and unity. As far as the town administration is concerned, we are one community and we will do our utmost to care for everyone regardless of their residency status or birthright."

"Like many seasonal places in the Northeast, there have been reports of part-time residents going to their seasonal homes to wait out the coronavirus outbreak," reports the Cape Cod Times. "Provincetown has seen an influx of people, creating concerns that the region's health care system won't be able to handle a possible surge in COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus."

All people should be staying in their homes as much as they can, even if they had to travel to get there, Stephen Katsurinis, chairman of the Provincetown Board of Health, told the Cape Cod Times on Thursday.

"If you've been in New York or if you've have never left Provincetown you need to do the same thing, which is to stay inside and avoid having contact with other people," he said. "That's the only way to stop the spread of this virus."

Travelers can still come from out-of-state to Massachusetts, but governor Charlie Baker is discouraging travel to his state.

"We're asking folks considering coming to Massachusetts, for whatever reason, please do not travel to our community, especially if you have symptoms," Baker said Friday.

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