Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and Department of Health Director, Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott on Wednesday reaffirmed their commitment to a safe return to in-person schooling in the fall. Exactly how that will happen is still unclear.

“We can’t say today with certainty what the plan is,” Raimondo said. 

“It is safer to return them to school,” Raimondo said. Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott expanded, “The in-person schooling does provide safer opportunities for children when you look comprehensively at what children need. We want to help support the educational attainment that’s necessary for the children, the nutritional, the emotional, and the mental health well-being that’s necessary. You talk to the children… they’re missing that engagement with each other that contributes to their appropriate developmental advancement.”

This past week, the state received preliminary plans from all school districts. But Raimondo acknowledged the need for contingency plans, given all that could change in the next six weeks. Governor Gina Raimondo and Rhode Island School Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green will host virtual forums every Thursday at 3pm on the Governor’s Facebook page to keep people informed on the planning process. 

“We want this to be transparent and fact-based,” Raimondo said. “I was disturbed when the Trump administration said last week that they weren’t going to let science influence the decision around schools.” Raimondo noted that public health officials and experts will attend the forum. “We are going to follow the science,” she said.

Raimondo says Infante-Green will regularly attend Wednesday press conferences to answer questions.

Raimondo took a moment to address noncompliance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines, focusing particularly on people in their twenties and Rhode Island bars. Young people are averaging a 3.5% percent positivity rate; the statewide COVID positivity rate is around 2%. Raimondo urged young Rhode Islanders to be more considerate and vigilant about social gatherings, and to step up mask wearing. “You’re going out into the community and infecting people who are vulnerable, who are winding up in the hospital, or worse.”

Raimondo said she isn’t seeing a sufficient amount of compliance, especially in bars. Under phase 3 guidelines, bars must operate like restaurants, seating people at tables or an empty bar. The governor announced a big round of inspections this week, hinting at more stringent rules if inspections do not go well.

Governor Raimondo also announced $100,000 in federal grant money for Rhode Island nursing homes to purchase smart devices. Raimondo says visitations are going well, but hopes the smart devices will offer another option to stay connected with family. That, and the governor announced a new virtual community hub for Rhode Island seniors to socialize and stay informed on virus updates.

The Department of Health also announced a new test site in the Rhode Island Convention Center parking lot. The new site will replace the current setup at Rhode Island College, and eventually it will also replace the site at the Community College of Rhode Island.