Gov. announces how state will respond to COVID cases in schools

RHODE ISLAND (WLNE)- At Governor Gina Raimondo’s weekly coronavirus press briefing, she unveiled how the state will respond to a school if a teacher or student tests positive for the virus, which the governor said will be inevitable during in-person learning.

“There are going to be cases. There are going to be children that get the covid virus. There are going to be professionals that go into the building that test positive,” said Raimondo.

She released three different scenarios in which the state will respond to outbreaks in schools.

In the first scenario, there is one positive case in a stable group, and two or more cases within 14 days through known exposure outside of school, and/or two or more cases from the same stable group in school. All of the cases will be quarantined and their close contacts will be isolated.

In the second scenario, two or more positive cases emerge in 14 days connected by a common school activity, with the cases coming from different stable groups. Again, all of the cases will be quarantined and their close contacts will be isolated. Furthermore, the Rhode Island Department of Health will recommend if further action is appropriate.

In the third scenario, there is community transmission and outbreaks that impact multiple students, parents, and teachers. Multiple more cases are identified within 14 days from different stable groups, with no connection between cases. All cases will be quarantined and their close contacts will be isolated. RIDOH will step in to see if the school needs to be shut down.

“So a quick, swift move to distance learning,” explained Raimondo in the event of the third scenario.

The idea that teachers and students will be back in the classroom during the pandemic has some education leaders worried.

“I think it’s very alarming,” said Frank Flynn, the President of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Healthcare Professionals. “I think it would be very irresponsible if they didn’t come up with contingency plans.”

He and members of the National Education Assoc. of R.I. (NEARI) are pushing for a return to school through distance learning, with an eventual staggered return to the classroom.

“If you phase in the restaurants, then we should phase in the schools,” said Bob Walsh, the Executive Director of NEARI. “I think come September 14, it’s foolish to expect that anyone can be back through the door.”

The governor has been listening to their concerns and responded at her press briefing.

“I think you can do it. I think you just need to try harder and be more creative,” said Raimondo.

Flynn says the feasibility of returning in-person will vary by the size of each district.

“You can be very creative, but it’s not necessarily functional or practical,” said Flynn.

Raimondo is scheduled to release how she wants each district to reopen sometime during the week of Aug. 31.

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island