Governor Gina M. Raimondo, Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), and Angélica Infante-Green, the Commissioner of the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) provided details today on the state’s response to COVID-19.

The Governor announced that all school districts are aiming to return to in-person learning on August 31st. The state’s approach includes the adoption of a statewide calendar for all public school districts to use during the 2020-2021 academic year. RIDE is working with RIDOH to develop a continuum of school-reopening scenarios, which balance prioritizing the health and safety of school communities with providing in-person instruction as soon as possible. RIDE will be providing guidance to districts, charter schools, and state-run schools next week to help them develop their own individual back-to-school plans. Those plans will be submitted to RIDE for review and implementation support.

Schools will be ready to conduct distance learning throughout the school year if students become sick, are quarantined, or are otherwise unable to attend school for an extended period of time. RIDE will continue to work with local education agencies (LEAs, which include districts, charters, and state-run schools) to review statewide plans and coordinate with local education leaders on implementation.

The state is planning to provide financial support to districts as they implement their individual reopening plans. There will be a focus on equity, including a prioritization of resources for communities with higher rates of COVID-19. Support will include additional funding from the CARES Act to offset increased costs LEAs will incur, such as increased transportation and cleaning costs. For more information, visit RIDE’s COVID-19 web page.

The Governor also announced that, for the first time, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants are now able to select and pay for their groceries online using their EBT card at Amazon and participating Walmart stores. For more details, visit dhs.ri.gov.

DHS also recently received approval to issue a Rhode Island Works emergency payment to families currently receiving these RI Works benefits. This payment is to help offset expenses that may have occurred during this pandemic. The $1.6M through the CARES Act will help 3,700 Rhode Island Works families and is a one-time payment for families who were eligible in either April or May and are receiving benefits in June. The funds will be put on parents’ EBT cards on June 19th. For more details, visit dhs.ri.gov.

COVID-19 Data Update RIDOH announced 66 new cases of COVID-19 today. This brings Rhode Island’s case count to 15,756. RIDOH also announced four additional COVID-19 associated fatalities. Rhode Island’s number of COVID-19 associated fatalities is now 812.