And additional information about the school testing process
Find the most recent COVID-19 data at the DOH data hub HERE.
Let’s start with the fun news, shall we? Rhode Island will celebrate Halloween and trick-or-treating after all, with face covers and social distancing, but also with costumes and candy too.
“The show will go on,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo during her weekly COVID-19 press conference at Veterans Auditorium in Providence Wednesday. “This year there will be Halloween in Rhode Island … but like everything else, it will be different.”
In particular, trick-or-treating can happen but state officials are asking residents to have a no-touch experience this year. So, instead of having the kids ring the doorbell, say “trick or treat,” and drop candy into the children’s open bags, this year, residents should make up individual portions and place them spaced out on a tray outside near the door so costumed youths can take them with minimum interaction.
Not quite as fun as oohing and ahhing over every adorable costume but, as we’ve come to learn well in recent months, it’s a whole lot better than nothing. And maybe, if the weather is nice, residents can sit outside and ooh and ahh at a social distance as trick-or-treaters collect their booty from the tray.
“Please make sure you wear masks – that’s the critical tool to keep Halloween safe,” Raimondo said. State Department of Health’s Nicole Alexander-Scott said everyone needed to “follow the three W’s”: Wear your mask; wash your hands; and watch your distance.
Not surprisingly, Raimondo said Halloween this year is NOT to include parties of more than 15 people, speaking most directly to college students. In the past two weeks, the largest uptick in cases has been among 19- to 24-year-olds. That points to the recent outbreaks at Providence College and, to a lesser degree, URI.
“We are working closely with our college leaders to get this under control. It’s coming down a little bit, but it’s still the age group where we’re seeing the most cases,” said Raimondo.
The response to the state’s “Take It Outside” grant program has been so strong Raimondo said they were upping the amount available for grants from $1 million to $5 million. This is money for companies that are trying to conduct more of their business outside.
“The science is very clear: it’s much safer to be outside,” she said. “We want to help.”
The first round of grants will be announced Thursday but because of the additional $4 million for the program, there will be a second round of funding. Raimondo encouraged business owners who had not yet applied to visit TakeItOutsideRI.com to apply for the second round.
Also, she said the state would ease the table spacing requirements from 8 feet to 6 feet for outdoor dining, effective immediately.
“It’s a small bit of good news for restaurants,” she said.
Raimondo also talked at length about the testing system set up for schools. So far, the state has tested 4,000 students, teachers and staff through the new set up, with 60 positives. Another 100 school community cases were diagnosed through other testing programs. Raimondo said the number of students who tested positive were split about 50-50 between those attending school in person and those doing distance learning. The good news is that there’s not evidence of widespread transmission of the virus, she said, highlighting the work of the National Guard and of whole school communities.
“It’s going very smoothly. It’s not perfect but it’s going incredibly smoothly,” Raimondo said.
Here’s how the testing works, according to the governor: If you have symptoms, you should call as soon as possible to schedule a test. That first test, a “rapid” test, will offer results usually the same day. If you are positive, expect a call from the state DOH. If you are negative, you will get an email (in about two weeks, Raimondo said, results would be offered through an online portal).
If you are asymptomatic, you only get one test and the results will take about two days. That’s because rapid tests on asymptomatic people don’t work as well.
If you have symptoms and you test negative, you need both negative tests and symptom free for 24 hours before you go back to school.
Here’s the tricky part:
If you have a close contact – if you’ve been within 6 feet of someone for more than 15 minutes who has tested positive – and you test negative and feel fine, you still need to quarantine for 14 days.
To be clear, you are not a close contact just because you are in the same classroom or in the same school with someone who has a positive case. DOH will call you and tell you if you have been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive. You don’t need to quarantine unless the DOH tells you to quarantine.
“I know quarantining is a drag, especially if you don’t feel sick,” said Raimondo, but you have to stay home. You can’t play sports, be with friends, go shopping, etc.
“I’m sorry, those are the rules as they are,” she said. “There’s a possibility you still may have the virus.”