RHODE ISLAND—Governor Gina Raimondo delivered her weekly COVID-19 press conference today, where she outlined recent deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and announced that all districts in the state except for Providence and Central Falls would be returning to full in-person schooling on September 14.
“Today is primarily good news,” Raimondo said. “In general, it’s a good news story.”
In all, there were 46 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, two new deaths, 9 people were in the ICU, 5 were on ventilators and 77 were being hospitalized in toto. This brought the toal number of COVID related deaths in the state to 1,048 out of 21,949 total cases, about 4.7 percent.
Raimondo did note that more than 45,000 tests have been administered over the last seven days, and that the total number of new positive cases constituted less than two percent of all those tested.
“This should give you confidence that here in Rhode Island, we’re doing as well as you can be doing,” Raimondo said.
The governor also announced that state beaches will remain open with free parking after labor day, albeit without life guards on duty.
The big ticket item on Raimondo’s agenda, however, was the announcement concerning what shape schooling would take come the beginning of the year on September 14.
Raimondo announced that all school districts in Rhode Island, except for Providence and Central Falls, would be returning to full in-person learning on September 14.
“Parents, you want to do the right thing for your kids. You want to keep them safe,” Raimondo said in addressing concerns about the safety of full in-person learning. “100 percent of districts have had their plan vetted by RIDE and RIDOH.”
“We know children will test positive. We know people who work in the schools will test positive,” Raimondo added. “We’re confident that we can slow and prevent outbreaks.”
Raimondo also highlighted that the state would be operating 12 testing sites across the state to ensure parents, teachers and students could be tested if needed, and added that there would be same-day testing facilities made available for high-priority, symptomatic cases. Further, Raimondo outlined that state officials would be visiting every single public school building in the state between today and September 14, to inspect them for readiness to safely handle the burdens of full in-person learning.
“If our team goes in there and does the walkthrough and finds it’s not up to snuff,” Raimondo said, “then we will not allow that school building to open.”
“You have the green light to open September 14 for full in-person school and it is our expectation that that is what you will do,” Raimondo said. “It is my expectation, and our expectation, and RIDE’s expectation, that that is exactly what you will do.”
Providence and Central Falls, which failed to meet the metric requirements for full in-person teaching will be reevaluated on October 13. Similarly, other districts are expected to have reached full in-person teaching of every student by October 13, should they choose to ease into in-person learning with a staggered learning model. Parochial and other private schools are free to open for full in-person learning at their leisure.
A sticking point between Raimondo’s administration and the various districts throughout the state has been whether or not the governor actually has the authority to order schools to open fully if they believe it not to be in the best interests of their students. A lawsuit based on similar circumstances was carried out recently in Florida, in which it was found that the governor there could not order schools to open fully and in person.
Concerning the issue of who decides, and who enforces, how schools ultimately open, Raimondo expressed that she was looking into the issue.
“It’s a tricky question,” Raimondo said. “It’s not clear that the state has authority to force a district to do that.”
“We’re trying to figure out for the first time, exactly, our authority,” Raimondo added. “I know parents are going to look into their legal remedies and we will to.”