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Parents and Teachers Lack Confidence in School Walk-throughs: A summary of the governor’s September 2 press conference

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Providence Pedestrian Bridge.

Governor Gina Raimondo, RIDE Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green and DOH director Nicole Alexander-Scott gave the COVID briefing today at 1pm from The Vets auditorium,.

Today’s data is as follows: 53 positive COVID cases since yesterday. An additional 22 have also been added to previous days totals. Seventy-eight people are hospitalized for reasons associated with COVID-19, eight are in the intensive care unit, four people are on ventilators. Dr. Alexander-Scott announced one additional death today, a person in their 90s.

Raimondo announced today 50 members of the contact tracing team would be dedicated to contact tracing just for schools. The governor said if they need more as the year went on, they would add more. She stressed the need for assigned seating charts on buses, lunch halls and classrooms today. When a positive COVID case is found in a school, investigators need a verifiable list of everyone a student or staff member was in close contact with that day. Raimondo defined close contact as being closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes. Students (especially young ones) aren’t always the best at remembering the people they’ve had close contact with.

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Any close contact to a positive COVID case must quarantine for 14 days. For students, that will mean distance learning for the duration of their isolation. Close contacts will be tested; however, even if they do not have symptoms or the test is negative, they must remain in quarantine for the entire 14 days. Raimondo said today the same process would apply to bus drivers. 

Commissioner Infante-Green repeated today that while most districts except two were free to fully reopen, parents still have the option to take advantage of virtual learning this year. Providence and Central fall remain the only two districts limited to a partial reopening, as their COVID case count is too high.

Governor Raimondo today wrestled with members of the press over school inspections. Each school facility will be visited by an interdisciplinary team that includes members from the National Guard, DOH and other state agencies. The governor has repeatedly called them walkthroughs and not inspections, citing the extra help schools need to be COVID-ready. The walkthroughs are meant to help establish confidence that school facilities are safe to return to, but as members of the press noted, many still lack that confidence. The obligation falls on the cities and town to follow their own plan and state guidance.

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