Rhode Island school district reopening plans due Friday
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Friday is the deadline for school districts across Rhode Island to submit their reopening plans to the state Education Department for review and revision.
Gov. Gina Raimondo previously said that her goal is to reopen public schools for in-person learning on Aug. 31.
But districts have been told to create a plan for four scenarios: full in-person, partial in-person, limited in-person, and continued full distance learning.
The Democratic governor, Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, and Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott in a joint statement Friday said all decisions will be science based in response to the White House’s “rejection of science” in decisions about school reopenings.
“Every step of the way, our state’s response to COVID-19 has been driven by science,” their statement said. “We have rejected the false choice of an all-or-nothing approach and taken targeted, data-driven steps to keep Rhode Islanders safe. As we look toward reopening schools, we will continue to put public health first and to rely on facts and science in making the best decisions for the mental, physical, and intellectual needs of our students.”
Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, told The Providence Journal that many parents and educators are worried about a full return. But he also said it’s too soon to say whether the reopening plans will be thorough enough to ease those fears.
“Right now, it will be very difficult to open schools fully for every student,” he said. “If we reopen, it would be easier to accomplish if it were a hybrid model.”
The number of Rhode Island residents who have died of COVID-19 is approaching the 1,000 mark.
The state Department of Health on Friday announced two more coronavirus-related fatalities, bringing the state’s death toll to 990 people.
The department also reported 71 new confirmed cases of the disease out of 3,382 people tested, a positive rate of about 2%.
There were 62 people in the state’s hospitals with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the latest day for which the information was available, down from 64 the day before. Four patients are in intensive care.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
___ NURSING HOME TESTING
Coronavirus testing delays are putting residents and staff of Rhode Island’s nursing homes at risk, according to an industry group.
“Today we are sounding the alarm that the lack of timely test results in our homes is causing harm to our residents and workers,” Scott Fraser, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Care Association, said in a statement Thursday. “Accurate and rapid testing is a necessity in coping with and managing this virus in our nursing homes and so far, we have been left to guess at where COVID-19 lies.”
The organization represents 65 facilities that care for about 7,500 people.
Older residents are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. About three-quarters of the state’s nearly 1,000 deaths from the disease have been nursing home residents.
A nursing home recently learned that six staff members had tested positive for the disease, seven days after they had been tested, Fraser said. Throughout that week, they interacted with residents and other staff.
The state is addressing the issue.
“We are working very hard right now on strategies to shorten the turnaround time for test results for Rhode Islanders,” Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, told The Providence Journal.