Governor Gina Raimondo, DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, and Rhode Island commissioner of education Angelica Infante-Green gave the COVID-19 press briefing today at 1pm from The Vets Auditorium.
DOH reports 66 new cases of the coronavirus today. Dr. Alexander-Scott noted the past few days they had been reporting fewer than 100 cases each day. There are 148 people in the hospital, 27 of those are in the ICU and 16 people on are on ventilators. Four new fatalities were reported today; two people were in their 80s and two in their 90s. “Still a lot of work to do,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott. She said while positive rates were dropping statewide. they were still challenging in communities of color and population-dense environs.
Big news today from Governor Raimondo; she announced that students will return to in-person learning starting August 31. The earliest schools can end is the 180th day, which tentatively will be around June 16. RIDE released a statewide calendar today outlining the bare minimum districts have to follow. It is the first time the Ocean State will have the same academic calendar across all school districts. School districts can find guidance for COVID plans starting on Friday on reopeningri.com. They will be expected to have comprehensive plans for every scenario, in-person learning with new regulations, distance learning in case of quarantine or other event, and a hybrid of both. Public school vacations will be in sync, meaning some districts will see February vacation returning again after doing away with it. Private schools are not required to follow the calendar, but are encouraged.
While specific details have yet to be announced, the governor today said schools can expect more cleaning, staggered start times and distance learning to become a permanent fixture of public education. Snow days and sick days may be done away with entirely as a result. The governor and Commissioner Infante-Greene acknowledged it will be expensive, and today announced $42 million in CARES Act money will be allocated to schools to help them with increased costs. RIDE is expected to announce specifics on how that money will be spent next week.
When asked by Motif today about the status of the teachers unions with regard to the calendar, Commissioner Infante-Greene said the calendar was done in consultation with the statewide teachers union. There will be one day a month of professional development days where distance learning will take place. Schools can have more, but this is what the state will require at minimum.
“We will hold your hand through this,” said Raimondo. The governor said she does not want to interrupt the school year for any reason and virtual learning will be key, whether for immuno-compromised teachers or a quarantined class. The governor also announced the statewide graduation television special will be on June 15 at 7pm. Raimondo said there will be some special guests, including Viola Davis and a few Patriots players.
In other announcements, the governor announced SNAP participants can begin purchasing groceries using EBT cards online at Amazon and participating Walmart stores. The state will also make a one time payment to the poorest Rhode Islanders in the states’ RI Works program. The amount they receive is based on household size and is loaded onto their EBT cards. For an example, the governor said a household of three would receive approximately $550 in a one time payment.
The next press conference is on Friday at 1pm. You can watch at Capitol TV, Facebook Live or local news. Motif will have the summary of the governor’s comments up later that day.