PROVIDENCE, RI — It's back to school week in Rhode Island, and the first few days are going well, the state's top officials said during the weekly Wednesday news conference.
"Rhode Island is truly back to school," Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Greene said.
Gov. Gina Raimondo echoed the commissioner's sentiment, saying "we're doing it." The governor and commissioner spent the first few days in Rhode Island schools, talking to students and making sure things went smoothly. Raimondo said she saw a lot of back-to-school excitement among students and many teachers eager to be back in the classroom.
In the first two days, there were 19 cases of coronavirus connected to schools across the state. The state's dedicated back-to-school testing site identified eight, while the remaining 11 were tested at their doctor or another testing site. All positive cases were immediately isolated and their close contacts identified and ordered to quarantine, as well.
"As a governor, as a parent, I have confidence in the system," Raimondo said.
The breakdown of the cases is below.
19 cases total
8 tested through the school system, 11 tested at their doctor or another testing site
12 student cases, 8 teacher and staff cases
9 individuals went to school, 10 did not
Cases identified across 18 schools
"Every time we have had a case in the past two days, the Rhode Island Department of Health COVID response team has been able to respond right away," said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the department's director. This is thanks to the department's close partnership with the Department of Education and the National Guard, making the response effort fast and efficient, she said.
The cases were spread out across the state and no clusters were identified, Alexander-Scott said, meaning the chance of secondary or tertiary spread is very unlikely.
As an example of the fast response, Alexander-Scott outlined the response to a case identified in a teacher at Carnevale Elementary School in Providence. The teacher began to feel unwell during the school day, and immediately went to the school's dedicated isolation room. A test was scheduled through the school system and performed, and the positive results returned within the day. The Department of Health then began contact tracing, and had called all families involved by 10 p.m. that night, as well as coordinated environmental cleaning of the school. In total, three adults deemed to be close contacts were ordered to self-quarantine.
As was the case with nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the department is working to launch weekly breakdowns of coronavirus data related to schools, starting next week.