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State health officials warn of fake mask exemption form

August 23, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island public health officials are warning residents about a fake form circulating that gives the bearer a medical or religious exemption from coronavirus face-covering requirements.

The certificate even includes a state Department of Health logo, the agency said in a tweet Sunday.

“It was not developed by RIDOH or any official source, should not be filled out, and should not/will not be accepted by any entity, as the form is not legitimate,” the department wrote in the tweet.

The agency did not say where the fake certificate originated.

The state has recently been restoring mask mandates for some indoor spaces in an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant. Last week Gov. Daniel McKee issued an executive order requiring masks in K-12 schools for the upcoming school year regardless of vaccination status.

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Before the order, McKee had simply recommended masks for schoolchildren, leaving the final decision up to individual school districts.

But state officials said more than a quarter of Rhode Island’s new coronavirus cases are among children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible for a vaccination.

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PANDEMIC ECONOMY

Rhode Island is getting a better look at how the coronavirus pandemic affected the state’s economy with the release Monday of a new report from the state Department of Revenue.

The report used sales tax data for the analysis, which provided the best measure of the direct impact of the pandemic on the economy, and looked at the impact of the pandemic by sector, the department said in a statement.

The retail sector, particularly the hardware subsector that includes building materials and garden equipment, proved to be the best-performing portion of the state’s economy, perhaps as people stuck at home undertook home improvement projects.

The sector never experienced a decline in taxable sales relative to its estimated pre-COVID-19 baseline in 2020, the department said.

The worst-performing sector was hotels and lodging — hampered by COVID-19-related travel restrictions — which saw a significant drop in taxable sales early with some recovery in the later phases of the pandemic.

The sector never attained its estimated pre-COVID-19 baseline projections.

“I would characterize the report as confirmation of what we suspected was the impact of the pandemic on Rhode Island’s economy but providing us with a level of detail that we lacked,” Office of Revenue Analysis Chief Paul Dion said in a statement.

He said the report can be used to target economic recovery in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, and to figure out how best to help workers displaced by the changed economy.