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Your Coronavirus Update – Today, Sept. 1, 2020

Photo: Opening day, yesterday, Aug. 31, at Bishop Hendricken in Warwick

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL

US reported the percentage of coronavirus decreased from 6.2% during week #33 to 5.7% during week #34, as of August 28, 2020.

Just 6% of fatalities from coronavirus are only to that disease source.

The U.S. government is advising U.S. travelers to defer all cruise travel.

Pharmacies are having difficulty keeping their shelves stocked with hydroxycholoroquine

More than 225 GAP & Banana Republic stores to close

Northern Ireland is back to school – masks must be worn in high school level.

Poland is back to school – no masks are required.

Germany is back to school – cases have happened, but schools have not closed.

Tourist arrivals to Hawaii dropped by about 98 percent in July.

Popular TD Garden sports bar The Fours says it is closing its doors after 44 years in business

AllTrails, a hiking trails and maps database, reported that people are hitting the trails at three times the rate of previous years. The app saw 150% growth in daily active users in May.

The FDA has authorized emergency use of first antigen test for COVID-19

UConn has 57 positive testing students, in isolation.

Colleges & universities throughout US are seeing widespread outbreaks; colleges moving to 2-week closures, quarantines, etc. Most are getting sick with mild symptoms – and advice is now to stay on campus and not return home.

Temple University opens and then suspends for 2-weeks.

6 states set new single-day COVID highs last week: Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Virginia.

More permanent, plastic barriers are being installed at 37 US airports.

Universal Studios to cut close to 1,000 jobs.

Bedford, NH School is continuing as scheduled in the local school district after a student tested positive for COVID-19, triggering a contact tracing effort and cleaning at the school. Administrators believe protocols such as masks, distancing and small class sizes curbed further transmission.

The mandate to reopen schools across Florida will remain in effect after an appeals court ruled on Monday in favor of state education officials, as multiple lawsuits challenging the order’s constitutionality move forward.

There is a report that CVS did not inform people who may have picked up a prescription that was filled by an employee pharmacist or pharmacy tech who later tested positive.

Fast food industry jobs are aplenty as teenagers and the elderly stay away from taking these jobs.

One of the State University of New York’s campuses will shut down for two weeks after more than 100 people in the college community tested positive, representing about 3% of the students and faculty on campus.

Tourists could safely take commercial flights to visit Florida.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration late Friday allowed the drug remdesivir to be used on all patients hospitalized with COVID-19

Tourists are beginning to return to Las Vegas, but opting to drive in and not fly.

Cub Scouts build desk shields for schools in New Hampshire.

Maine has an outbreak of COVID-19 among individuals affiliated with the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford.

Astra-Zeneca has been approved for use of a vaccine while it is still in phase 3 testing.

Vermont is considering becoming the 2nd state to mandate flu shots

Over 1,000 students have tested positive for COVID-19 at University of Alabama since classes resumed

The Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard is a major testing facility, particularly for colleges, and has now surpassed their 1 millionth test.

Guests can wear Halloween costumes during the day at Disney in Florida from Sept. 1st through October – evening Halloween events were canceled.

The global tourism industry has a $320 billion loss in exports in the first five months of the year and more than 120 million jobs at risk.

India has more cases developing than other countries at this time.

First documented coronavirus reinfection reported in Hong Kong

Baylor University in Texas has 54 students in isolation

University of Kansas has 9 fraternities on quarantine with over 474 csaes

Arizona State Univ has 452 cases, with 200 in isolation on campus

A large off-campus party earlier this month at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester has spawned a cluster of COVID-19 cases, according to city officials. As of Saturday, 21 cases of COVID-19 had been linked to the party.

The NYT estimates 54 million Americans are suffering food insecurity

There is a suburban home sales boom as people move out of N.Y.C.

A Quincy, MA venue fined $300 for moving outdoor wedding indoors during stormy weather

2 Steamship Authority employees in MA have tested positive for COVID-19

A consensus is building among public health experts that it’s better to keep university students on campus after a COVID-19 outbreak rather than send them home

Second stimulus remains at a standstill, White House Chief of Staff says. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that negotiations on the coronavirus relief package will go no further until Republicans get “serious about the process”.

Two-thirds of Americans think that self-isolation and quarantine has made them a better person, according to a new study. The survey of 2,000 Americans over the age of 21 looked at the positives changes to come from the coronavirus pandemic — and the ways in which respondents are re-prioritizing what they value.

Bed, Bath & Beyond plans to reduce workforce by 5%, reducing by 3,000 employees.

2 out of 5 healthcare workers were on the fence or unlikely to get the vaccine, according to a recent survey.

RHODE ISLAND & VICINITY

Andover, MA teachers refuse to enter school buildings today as start of school begins

Protestors marched on Cambridge’s Moderna to demand that vaccines be affordable by all.

North Kingstown votes to hold on a decision for distance learning until Gov. Raimondo’s decision.

URI did testing over the weekend, 2 were positive – the school has contracted for hotel rooms, if necessary and will provide students with all they need while they are in quarantine.

Blackie’s Restaurant in Smithfield has shut down, saying it is the pandemic that is making it impossible to stay open.

One employee tested positive at Horseneck Beach, and according to the Fall River Herald Times, “the beach is unguarded and being cleaned”.

There are 5 key metrics for school opening: statewide virus data, municipal trends, testing capability, a district’s ability to acquire necessary cleaning supplies and personal protection equipment, and the operational readiness of each school (think transportation plans).

Sunday, students protested and marched over having to get a flu shot in Ma.

MA will have more child care options for children engaged in remote learning when school resumes this fall. The order allows the Department of Early Education and Care to authorize currently licensed after-school and out-of-school programs to operate during the school day.

Three more businesses were on the RI DBR list for non-compliance:

The Remnant Shop, Hope Valley

Smokehouse Gas Station, Tiverton

Metro PCS, East Providence

School Superintendents in RI are concerned about number of teachers who will not return and that they won’t know until just before school “opens”.

School teacher unions have expressed concern about building safety and classroom size. Asking for teacher/parent participation in school building walk-throughs.

Providence says school buses can now carry only 1/2 of their normal load.

RI Governor’s Address

Data: Yesterday: 46 new cases, 2 deaths. Sat: 75 new cases. Noteworthy, % positive rate among the lowest we’ve seen – 1.2%. Now testing more than ever. 9, 500 people in a few days. More tests, more cases. Focus on test positive rate. More testing than ever this week – over 45,000 tests in 7 days. Some days, percent positives below 1%. In RI, we are doing about as well as anywhere in the US.

Per capita, RI is testing twice as many tests. 50% more than CT. Testing strategically – urban, college, etc.  We will continue to rise – as we test more and more, the numbers will go up.

By and large, RI is a good news story – we are learning how to live with the virus.

Inspections: 1,200 done. Mask wearing: 96%; 14% of bars had insufficient bar and customer separation; 15% of bars with crowding. Watch the indoor crowding. If you find yourself indoors, crowded with others, remove yourself. Screening needs to be done more – 20% not doing enough.

Labor Day Weekend: Have a good time, be careful not to crowd, have big social gatherings. We know that 2-4 weeks after gatherings, we get a big spike, as it did in RI on the 4th of July.

Outdoors: Take it Outside Campaign

Encourage us to eat, work, etc. outside wherever possible. Starting today you can go on takeitoutsideri.com – reserve space for free at RI state properties. You can have a meeting there – free wifi at places – have an exercise class there – we will make land available for you. TY to mayors, town managers for assistance with this – closing sidewalks, streets, opening parking lots, etc.

Prov, EG, WG, CF, Jamestown, Warren – will be expanding – even holding municipal government council meetings outside. Citizens, AAA have agreed to participate in using outdoor space.

State Beaches and state parks will remain open after Labor Day – they will be free, but no lifeguards. Restrooms will stay open. Parking free. Updates will be posted on that website.

Schools:

Five metrics to clear to open schools. Today announcing every school system in RI meets these and has a green light – EXCEPT Providence and Central Falls. It is “my expectation, and our expectation, and RIDE’s expectation” that this is exactly what you will do.  Starting September 14th, begin the process of in-school learning.”

Governor reviewed metrics – statewide data, bed capacity, hospitalizations, rate of spread, total hospitalizations. We clearly and comfortably check these boxes.

Testing readiness – RI has met that goal – of testing turnaround.  Dozen sites all around the state and immediate testing for kids, teachers who have symptoms. Sept. 14th, you should be confident that this will be set up.

Supply shortages – state will help.

Does every school district have a plan vetted by RIDE and RIDOH? Yes – all plans have “been vetted” – “been approved as operationally ready”. All plans are approved. Contact person in place for each school.

School inspections: RI is inspecting every school – Dept. of health, national guard, etc. is going through every public school building. This will continue throughout the year.  If a school is NOT up to snuff, we will not allow school to open, children can go to another building or distance learning until building can be brought up to code.

Private/Independent/Parochial schools – you are free to open for full, in-person learning immediately. You are not bound by municipal metric.

Final Metric: Municipal readiness metric: Prov & CF don’t meet this criteria. RIDOH said we needed to see fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 cases in community – CF is at 114; Providence is at 100; Pawtucket is now at 56.

Prov & CF parents: Last week was our biggest testing week ever. We are over-testing, which is why the numbers are over 100, but don’t be nervous about that data. We are being extremely cautious. RIDOH recommends these 2 cities open partially and not fully in-person. Start with fewer students in classroom. Focus on younger students. Focus on transitional years (6th and 9th) and special needs. This will probably last for about a month in 2 cities.  (Oct. 13th).

Some districts will go slower – open as much as you can – staggered approach is ok. Phasing in is ok – staggered starts. Should take about a month until everyone is back in school all in RI. Take the full month to ease kids back into school. RI’s expectation is that by Oct. 13th, all RI children (except for Prov/CF) are in school for full in person learning – except for parents who choose otherwise.

Teachers: Gov. says “we need you” – you know that life has been brutal for the kids and

Dr. Scott: RI is working with Arden Engineering on difficult air circulation issues. Encouraging schools to phase in. “COVID19 is a preventable disease. We can live with this disease”.

Dr. Infante-Green: Reminds people that her title is “Education” and we have to talk about education. We keep hearing about school reopening and safety but we kept our foot on the pedal for the education side. Quality education is important.

Questions:

Cities/towns who have already announced full distance learning: Dr. Green – if I am a parent I have to question what’s going on. Does RIDE have the legal right? Many of parents are getting together. Gov. Raimondo: it’s not clear the state has the authority to “force” a district to go back. Hoping the cities/towns will reverse their decision. Parents may demand in-person learning. Would they learn their federal funding, etc. State will also look into legal remedies.

What about going to another community? Example: So. Kingstown family wants to go to No. Kingstown school.  Also, what about Providence location – where schools are located or where the live?  Dr. Green says still looking at other districts and whether there is room.

Inspections: Will they be made public? What are their qualifications? Not inspections – called walk-throughs – inter-disciplinary team that has been trained. Brought on a variety of technical experts. Do not expect to publish results publicly, even though Dr. Scott says she wants parents to be involved. Parents can’t make decision without knowing the walk-through data – asking the state to release that data. Asking them to have confidence in the process.

FEMA Unemployment Funds: lot of software recoding – hope to be done by Sunday so it could be next week or week after before funds are released.

Asymptomatic teacher testing before school starts?  Substitutes?  Focus on rapid testing is on symptomatics. Nothing by the state – go to a respiratory clinic or call your doctor or go to a clinic. Teachers can qualify as high contact – they can go to portalri.gov.

Tomorrow’s 1pm press conference is on testing – short 15 mins – deep dive on testing and schools.

Delay of 2 weeks to today.. 4 more weeks to “merge in” to full person. Loss of 6 weeks.

Older HVAC systems will be a problem – especially in the cities.

RI will start to focus more on percent positive. You test more, you find more.

Providence and Central Falls will be looked at for full openings in one month. Raimondo noted that as Providence and Central Falls do not currently meet the state criteria of having fewer than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents per week, they are not eligible for full in-person learning

Providence Return to School

Providence Public Schools will reopen partially on Sept. 14, with PK-5 attending in person daily and grades 6-12 alternating between in person and distance learning. Read more here.

No word yet on Central Falls

Sick Leave: West Warwick has 100 requests. Scituate has 50.

Union reps expressed concern about large class sizes and buildings without proper air quality – knowing that schools are just beginning to be inspected.

Three school departments – Pawtucket, Cumberland, and West Warwick have already opted for full distance learning.

Santa School in London – though it will be different…the magic never dies…

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