Above: Practicing ‘social distancing’ at the Senior Center lunch Friday, from left: Charlotte Dumas, George Baton and Alan Clarke.
By Elizabeth F. McNamara
March 14, 2020, 3 p.m. – The latest number of positive tests in Rhode Island is 20, up from 14 on Friday, according to the state Dept. of Health. The new cases are in four men and two women and all are at home.
The three juveniles who tested positive yesterday include a student of Cranston West High School, where all students and staff (more thna 1,500 people) have been told to self-quarantine.
Health Dept. director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said testing capacity is increasing. More than 100 tests were performed Friday. She said it seemed as if the state was moving toward community spread of the virus.
In East Greenwich, Town Manager Andrew Nota Saturday said the town has not received any official information about East Greenwich residents – whether or not they are among the tested. He said town efforts remain focused on maintaining services and adapting to facts changing hourly. Town Hall will remain open, Nota said, with precautions being taken. If any employee is not feeling well, they are recommended to go home or stay home.
The East Greenwich Free Library will be closed through Friday, March 20, matching the schools, as recommended by the state Office of Library and Information Systems. Lunches at the Senior Center will continue for now, with attendees spread out three to a table. But with only six people at the lunch Friday, Nota said he wondered about all those who normally attend who might need the meal.
To that end, Nota said he’s holding a meeting Wednesday, March 18, with local EMA members, and representatives from the school district, the business community, the local Interfaith Council, the library and others “to coordinate our efforts and to share concerns and areas of need as we progress in our actions to combat this ongoing health event. This will be an open conversation as to areas of need, coordination of resources, supplies, and communications going forward.”
Nota said a big challenge going forward is to figure out how to conduct meetings of the Town Council and other town boards while keeping people safe and complying with the state’s Open Meetings Act. Whatever can be put off, will be put off, he said.
“What can we normally delay for a month or two without much disruption? We want to err on the side of caution. If there’s no need to put people together, why would you?”
That might mean panels like the Historic Cemetery Commission and the Affordable Housing Commission, both advisory boards. Already decided is the Municipal Court, which is continued to May 21.
But fiscal year 2021 begins July 1, so budget season is starting (by Town Charter, the budget must be approved by the Town Council by June 15).
“We need some emergency authority at the local level for us to be able to conduct meetings that are not in violation of the OMA,” Nota said, referring to the state’s Open Meetings Act. Some of the questions: can the Town Council take public comment remotely? At the budget hearing, can residents text, email or call in their questions? Nota said they need a little bit of time to work out those details.
Another priority for Nota is coordinating with other cities and towns to help each other in case of need – mutual aid on steroids.
“Our public safety and our first responders are going to be affected like the rest of us,” said Nota. “There needs to be coordination among communities so that we can start to share services. It’s a process but that conversation really needs to start. I’m hoping we can push that along a bit.”
He added, “Everyone needs to know, we’re going to be there to help you.”
Find more East Greenwich COVID-19 coverage here:
EG Houses of Worship Respond to Virus
State Closes Schools; April Vacation Moved
Recalling Viruses Past: House Calls, Quarantine Signs
COVID-19: Extra Cleaning, Some Shortages Around EG
School Activities Cancelled for Now
Town Prepares for Virus Threat
COVID-19 Test Negative for Meadowbrook Sibling, School Resumes
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