Gov. Gina Raimondo says state officials will be “at the ready” to help guide decisions for when Rhode Island schools have to deal with cases of the novel coronavirus this fall.
During a Wednesday news conference, the governor said after schools reopen, a procedure will be in place for COVID-19 cases as well as action steps.
The governor announced last week that schools will start Sept. 14. instead of the end of the month, as previously planned, to give administrators and families more time to prepare amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, the final determination on whether classes will begin in-person, remote or by hybrid model won’t be made until the end of the month, Raimondo said.
When schools do open, the governor said the Rhode Island Department of Health will be ready to go into schools to determine if cases should be isolated or close contacts quarantined for 14 days.
Speaking with Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci last week, Raimondo said they discussed getting as many students back to school safely as possible.
“We are not going to force any teacher to work in a building that isn’t safe,” Raimondo said.
With that, school districts are being supplied with personal protective equipment including cleaning supplies, thermometers and gowns, Raimondo said.
“No one is going to be left in the lurch,” the governor said in terms of supplies.
There were three new fatalities and 79 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported on Wednesday by the Rhode Island Department of Health. There have now been 1,027 total deaths and 20,795 total cases, according to health officials.
Rhode Island’s National Education Association last week had called for a remote start to the school year saying teacher’s unions were concerned with the air quality and poor ventilation in old schools.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said guidance on air quality would be going out by the end of the week.
Also Wednesday, the governor said COVID-19 compliance by Rhode Islanders is a bit better and that it is showing in the numbers.
Inspectors have visited 1,000 businesses and found 96% of staff and customers were wearing masks.
“That’s where we want to be. Keep it up,” Raimondo said.
The governor said the one area the state is not doing well is at bars which she ordered closed at 11 p.m. a few weeks ago. Fifteen percent of bars had customers too close to one another, while 17% had customers too close to bartenders, Raimondo said.
On Wednesday, Raimondo encouraged more residents to get outside while the weather is still nice, saying the novel coronavirus spreads 19 times faster indoors.
She announced the Take it Outside Campaign which aims to close more streets for shopping and dining, as well as to set up more mobile hotspots so people can work outdoors.