PROVIDENCE, RI — Five days before Rhode Island schools reopen Sept. 14, many for in-person learning, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo reported classes will coincide with dedicated K-12 COVID-19 test centers.
Raimondo said Tuesday’s 1 percent positive rate from among 5,000 tests is in line with daily statistics for the state, often showing COVID-19 positive rates below 2 percent with dips below 1 percent. In August, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Rhode Island’s 2-3 percent infection rate puts it under the threshold for “green” states, with less than 10 cases per 100,000 people. Nothing, however, is 100 percent, including pandemic prevention plans, he said.
In fact, starting Sept. 14, the RI Department of Health will open more than a dozen COVID-19 testing sites throughout the state devoted solely to K-12 testing. A full list of the sites will be posted to backtoschoolri.com on Friday, Raimondo said. The operation will have the capacity to run 5,000 tests per day just for the K-12 system, Raimondo said. A COVID-19 hotline will also be announced on Friday, she said.
Anyone feeling ill in a Rhode Island school will be able to visit one of the centers and receive a rapid same-day result COVID-19 test, as well as the more accurate test, available within 48 hours, she said. The system will allow the state to respond to outbreaks in the school system, and isolate COVID-19 positive students and teachers, before they disrupt learning, Raimondo said.
Crush COVID App Upgraded
Raimondo also announced a new COVID-19 version of the Crush COVID tracker app for smart phones to help state health officials gather information about people with symptoms or a confirmed case of COVID-19 and those they have interacted with and likely exposed to the novel coronavirus that causes the disease. According to Raimondo, the updated app has the following new features:
- Causes less battery drain
- Available on the Apple app store or Google Play
- Prompts you to catalog daily symptoms
- Track and log symptoms for up to 10 people in your household
- Screening page green or red face indicating whether you should stay home from work or other activities
“This tool can make it much easier for businesses, restaurants, bars, schools, to do their health screenings and will make it quicker for all of us,” Raimondo said.
Rather than answer the same health questions wherever you go, people using the app can simply show the screening screen to indicate they have a green face, and thus are less likely to be carrying the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Nursing home visits OK, required now
Raimondo also reiterated that restrictions on nursing home visits have been relaxed, and that a single positive case inside a nursing home is no longer cause to ban visitation to that nursing home.
“Nursing home and assisted living facilities need to make every effort to ensure that residents and their families have regular access to in-person visitation.” Raimondo said. She said the new guidelines are not relaxed to a point that will promote spread of COVID-19.
Flu shots ‘life or death’ this fall
Raimondo noted that getting your flu shot is more important than ever this season with COVID-19 remaining a concern.
“We are going to make it easier than ever to get your flu shot,” said Raimondo, who noted that RI’s flu vaccination rate is typically 55 percent of adults and about 75 percent for children. While those statistics put RI ahead of most other states, it’s not good enough, Raimondo said.
“In a world where we are dealing with the deadly disease of COVID, combined with the flu, we cannot have hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders not vaccinated for the flu,” Raimondo said.
The state will partner with schools for students and teachers to get their shots, with Health Equity Zones to aid community access to flu shots, and work with nursing homes, grocery stores and with cities and towns to make getting a flu shot as easy as possible, including offering them for free.
“You will have no excuse not to get a flu shot this year,” Raimondo said. “It’s not just about keeping you safe, it’s about making sure our hospital system doesn’t get overrun,” Raimondo said.
Additional COVID-19 classroom coverage, commentary: