Rhode Island setting up virus testing system for schools

Governor Gina Raimondo during an August 12, 2020 coronavirus briefing at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence, with Education Commisioner Angelica Infante-Green. Pool photo by David DelPoio / The Providence Journal

The Associated Press

Rhode Island is setting up a rigorous coronavirus testing system for the state’s schools to quickly identify and stamp out possible outbreaks, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Tuesday.

The dedicated testing system is for teachers, staff and students at both public and private schools, the Democratic governor said at a news conference, a day after announcing that most public school districts in the state had been cleared for in-person learning starting Sept. 14.

The school testing system will be able to run 5,000 tests per day, on top of the state’s existing testing capacity.

If a student or school staffer feels sick with coronavirus symptoms — either at home or in school — they can schedule a test through a hotline that has not yet been set up.

People who fall ill while in school will be required to go to a dedicated isolation area that every school is required to have until they get taken home, Raimondo said.

About a dozen school testing sites are being set up around the state to make sure everyone has convenient access, she said.

“We’re trying to make this as safe and as convenient as possible,” she said.

The testing sites will perform two tests: a rapid test that returns results within 10 to 15 minutes, and a second test that has about a 48-hour turnaround time.

“Time is our enemy with coronavirus,” she said. “Speed matters. Speed saves lives.”

Even if someone’s rapid test is negative, they will be required to stay at home until they get the results of the second test. If the second test is positive, that person will be required to isolate per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.



Even though Raimondo has given most public school districts in Rhode Island the green light for full in-person classes this fall, teachers and administrators still have questions and concerns.

“There is still a great deal of fear and anxiety by many parents and teachers regarding the announcement of a return to in-person schooling,” Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals said in a statement to WJAR-TV.

Raimondo made her decision based on five conditions, including on whether the coronavirus is under control. Every public school in the state will get a walkthrough by experts to make sure they are safe and properly prepared.

“It is our expectation that the state will do comprehensive assessments and provide the resources, materials, logistics, and funding to remediate any deficiencies that are identified and restrict schools which are unsuitable from opening,” Flynn added.

Bob Walsh, executive director of National Education Association Rhode Island, said his members have questions about possibly overcrowded buses and classrooms if too many parents decide it’s safe to send their children back to school.

Thomas DiPaola, executive director of the state’s School Superintendents Association, said the group’s members have questions about funding and whether they will have enough personnel.



Rhode Island has 53 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to more than 22,000 known cases, the state Department of Health reported Tuesday.

The department also reported two additional coronavirus-related deaths for a total of 1,050 fatalities.

The number of people in the state’s hospitals with the disease was 81 as of Sunday, the latest day for which the information was available, one more than the previous day. Of those, eight were in intensive care.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island over the past two weeks dropped from 2.36% on Aug. 17 to 1.28% on Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island rose slightly over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins.