PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s governor on Friday announced the formation of a new task force to help the state’s cities and towns shore up their economies, both during the coronavirus pandemic and in the long term.
The eight-member Municipal Resilience Task Force is made up of municipal, state and private sector leaders who will look at the lessons learned during the pandemic and develop innovative recommendations to build economic resiliency, find ways to save money, and improve services.
“With so much financial uncertainty, now is the time to begin exploring creative steps they can take to become more efficient and flexible,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “This task force will bring together a diverse group of community leaders who are committed to addressing and responding to the immediate challenges presented by COVID-19, while simultaneously working together to build a more resilient Rhode Island in the days to come.”
The group will also quantify the impact of the pandemic on municipal finances.
“Cities and towns have spent millions of dollars responding to COVID-19 and now face potentially devastating budget challenges,” Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, president of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, said in a statement. “Local leaders need to work closely with state and federal partners to avoid property tax increases and service cuts. Rhode Island’s economy cannot rebound if cities and towns are struggling.”
TEACHER’S CORONAVIRUS APP
A Rhode Island high school teacher, with the help of several students, has developed a mobile app to screen students, teachers and staff for symptoms of COVID-19 each day before they enter the building.
Joe Mazzone, a computer and software engineering instructor at the William M. Davies Jr. Career & Technical High School in Lincoln, tells The Providence Journal that the app also compiles data in a way that’s easy and efficient for school administrators to access.
The health screening app — which all students, teachers and staff members will be required to download — asks the user a series of symptom-screening questions provided by the state Department of Health, as well as questions about travel and potential exposure to someone who has tested positive for the virus, Mazzone said.
If a user answers “yes” to any of the questions, a screen will appear telling him or her not to enter the building.
The Rhode Island Department of Health on Friday reported 58 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus out of more than 7,200 tests, a positive rate of less than 1%.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island has now decreased over the past two weeks, going from 2.4% on Aug. 13 to 1.41% on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The state on Friday also reported two new coronavirus-related deaths, for a total of 1,046 fatalities.
The number of people in the state’s hospitals with the disease fell to 81 as of Wednesday, the latest day for which the information was available, down from 86 the prior day. Eight were in intensive care.