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PROVIDENCE, RI — ACCESS/RI has called on Gov. Dan McKee for a renewed executive order allowing remote meetings, with live-stream broadcast & remote public input, as COVID-19 cases spike.
In a letter sent to the Governor Tuesday, the coalition – including the ACLU of RI, Common Cause RI, the RI Press Association, and the New England First Amendment Coalition – pressed for the order as a health and safety measure necessary to ensure meaningful public participation in the political process.
Rhode Island currently has more COVID-19 cases per capita than any other state, placing medically vulnerable residents and many others at great risk when attending meetings in-person.
The Act Now Coalition, an independent nonprofit founded in March 2020 to help people make informed decisions by providing timely and accurate data about COVID, rates the health risk from the Delta and Omicron viruses that cause COVID-19 as severe, with 102 documented cases per 100,000 people in the state. The coalition website’s percent positive rate measure for the state is 5.9 percent. According to the RI Department of Health, the percent positive rate, just above 5.5 percent last week, has now climbed to 6.3 percent.
Last year, the percent positive rate measure widely considered for safe return to in-person schooling was set at below 5 percent. The 5 percent COVID-19 positivity threshold was set last fall on the advice of the country’s top virologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci,
A winter rise in COVID-19 cases was expected before Omicron was known to be spreading here as cold weather put more people indoors with closed windows. Omicron is expected to further increase pressure on hospitals, with ripple effects on the economy and schools, McKee said. As of Dec. 22, there are 280 people hospitalized with COVID-19 infections, and 8 deaths from the virus recorded Monday.
On Tuesday, Gov. McKee ordered flags at public buildings to fly at half-staff for the day in memory of a grim Ocean State milestone: 3,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
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