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Virus news: Rhode Island offers tests upon airport arrival

November 29, 2020 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — A look at coronavirus developments around New England:

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CONNECTICUT

Connecticut officials scrambled to find enough personal protective equipment when the coronavirus pandemic hit last spring, relying on Chinese bankers and a lumber company to help procure masks and gowns.

They have used a more familiar tool as coronavirus infections have surged again in recent weeks: Amazon.

The Hartford Courant reports Sunday that on one day in early November, the state spent about $134,000 ordering 750,000 exam gloves from the online retail giant.

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State Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe told the newspaper that the Amazon purchases were for a specific glove size. “We are actually well above all of our targets in terms of PPE, but for some reason we couldn’t find extra-large gloves so we turned to Amazon,” Geballe said.

The newspaper reports that purchase orders from October and November show that the state is stocking up on gloves, with seven different purchases.

The state’s largest November order for protective equipment was for $1.86 million worth of masks from one of the contractors it used in the spring, the Rossi Group LLC, a Cromwell, Connecticut-based lumber company.

Connecticut also acquired more than $15 million worth of protective equipment shipped directly from China last spring, when state and local governments were desperate to stock up on masks and gowns, Some of the items were donated, including more than $2 million in masks by the China Construction Bank.

State officials did not release new COVID case statistics on Sunday. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Connecticut has risen over the past two weeks from about 1,503 new cases per day on Nov. 13 to 1,587 new cases per day on Nov. 27, according to the latest figures from The COVID Tracking Project.

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MAINE

Retailers and shops in Skowhegan are trying to turn Small Business Saturday into an entire week to prevent the pandemic from taking a toll on the critical holiday shopping season.

Main Street Skowhegan is promoting Shop Small Week as a way to encourage people to patronize local businesses. The initiative includes a raffle, discounts and a guide to the dozens of businesses signed up to participate.

Main Street Skowhegan Executive Director Kristina Cannon said support for local businesses is more critical than ever this year. Cannon’s organization is a nonprofit that works to revitalize the downtown economy. The weeklong promotion will run through Saturday.

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“I know a lot of businesses have seen sales drop due to the pandemic, so this is really the time to get out and support them,” she told CentralMaine.com.

Maine reported another 224 cases of the virus on Sunday, bringing the state’s total number of confirmed cases to 11,500.

The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 2.85%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 2.05% on Nov. 13 to 2.85% on Nov. 27.

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MASSACHUSETTS

Nurses at a Massachusetts hospital plan to picket outside the front entrance to protest what they say is a lack of safe staffing, protection and support from management.

The informational picket by nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester is scheduled for Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., according to a statement from the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

St. Vincent nurses have filed more than 360 official reports of conditions that jeopardized the safety of their patients, and more than 100 have left the hospital because of the conditions, the union said.

St. Vincent is operated by Dallas-based Tenet Health.

“We have tried for months to convince our administration and the Tenet corporation to provide us with the resources we need to keep the public safe, yet they only make things worse,” St. Vincent nurse and union official Marlena Pellegrino said in a statement. “Now we are taking to the streets with this picket to alert the public and the community of our concerns as they have the most to lose if Tenet doesn’t alter its dangerous practices — our patients lives are on the line.”

A spokeswoman for St. Vincent said in a statement Sunday that the hospital is disappointed by the protest and noted that it comes during contract negotiations with the union.

State health officials on Sunday reported more than 2,500 newly confirmed cases and 46 additional confirmed deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new confirmed cases in Massachusetts has risen over the past two weeks from 2,260 on Nov. 13 to 2,614 on Nov. 27.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

Demand for substitute teachers is up as the pandemic puts pressure on educators and school districts.

Smaller class sizes and quarantine-related absences mean school administrators are often short-handed and relying more on the flexibility provided by subs, the Concord Monitor reported Sunday.

One district recently raised its pay for substitute teachers to $95 per day, up from $75 to $90 per day.

“Keeping our schools open depends on having adequate staff and we absolutely could not be open without our substitute teachers,” SAU 24 superintendent Jacqueline Coe told the newspaper.

More than 20,000 people in New Hampshire have tested positive for the virus, including nearly 500 new cases announced Sunday. Three new deaths were announced, bringing the total in the state to 526.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 273.86 new cases per day on Nov. 13 to 359.43 new cases per day on Nov. 27.

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RHODE ISLAND

People flying into T.F. Green Airport were given the option of a free coronavirus test this weekend as the state looks to prevent a surge in cases following Thanksgiving.

The voluntary, rapid tests were offered to anyone arriving at the airport in a roped area near the baggage claim. The free tests started Saturday and will continue through Monday.

The effort is being led by the state’s Department of Health and the Rhode Island National Guard. Results from the rapid tests are available in about 15 minutes.

Also, Gov. Gina Raimondo has implemented a two-week “pause” of the state’s reopening plans, beginning Monday, to curb a rise in cases. The halt will require businesses including theaters and indoor sports facilities to close, and it reduces capacity at restaurants and houses of worship. The state has set aside $100 million to help affected businesses and employees.

Rhode Island did not release any new virus data Sunday. The seven-day rolling average of daily new confirmed cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from 735 on Nov. 13 to 850 on Nov. 27, according to the latest available data from The COVID Tracking Project.

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VERMONT

The Vermont State Colleges System says 971 Vermonters enrolled in free courses and trainings at four of its institutions after the state established the workforce initiative using $2.3 million in federal coronavirus relief funds.

Many Vermonters enrolled in multiple courses, officials said. A total of 1,298 classes and trainings are being taken this fall at Castleton University, the Community College of Vermont, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College.

“We are incredibly grateful for this investment in the VSCS and in Vermonters by the legislature and the Governor, and we are thrilled to share the success of this program,” Vermont State Colleges System Chancellor Sophie Zdatny said in a statement this week.

On Sunday, the Vermont Health Department reported 67 new cases of the virus, bringing the state’s total since the pandemic began to 4,100.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new confirmed cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 59 on Nov. 13 to 78 on Nov. 27.