‘Back 2 School’ town hall aims to ease concerns ahead of another semester amid pandemic

Back to School

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island state leaders say they’re prepared to make the upcoming school year great, even as the pandemic continues.

To help parents, students, and teachers get prepared for the first day of classes, Rhode Island officials held a Facebook live town hall on Wednesday night to try and ease concerns about a return to the classroom.

R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott says even though COVID-19 is still here, the state knows what to do if positive cases emerge or kids need to quarantine since they’ve done it before.

Different than last year, state officials say the one additional tool in the state’s tool kit is the COVID-19 vaccine.

R.I. Department of Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green noted over 90% of Rhode Island teachers are vaccinated.

“However, what we’re looking at is that many of the students still have not taken advantage, or basically, the parents have not taken advantage of the vaccinations at this point,” Infante-Green said.

She says now is the time for eligible students to talk to a healthcare professional about the vaccine.

“We want you to have the best chance for your family to get protected, and it is the vaccine,” Infante-Green added.

Dr. Alexander-Scott says schools will also be replicating what works: social distancing, testing, and mask wearing.

She was asked to explain the science and data that supports masking kids in schools to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Over time, we’ve continued to have an accumulation of data and science to support it, and it’s clear that masks work to limit the spread of the virus, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” Alexander-Scott. said.

“Masks stop the spread of the droplets through which the virus is spread, and it limits the spread of those particles, those respiratory particles when someone breathes out. That then leads to it limiting the intake of droplets and particles when someone else around them breathes in,” she added.

Dr. Alexander-Scott says this protection works best when everyone is wearing a mask.

Infante-Green says every school has submitted a health and safety component with their back-to-school plan, and the health department is reviewing those plans ahead of school starting.

She says school safety plans will all be posted on the state’s back-to-school website.

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