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R.I. governor aims to rebuild health care system

Rhode Island plans to distribute as much as $150 million of federal stimulus money to help the state's hospitals recover from the financial hit they have taken during the coronavius pandemic, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Thursday.

The pandemic has driven up costs, while at the same time the corresponding drop in non-critical procedures has cut deeply into revenues, she said.

“The reality is our health care system is stretched and fragile in ways I don't know if it's ever been before," she said.

The hospital relief fund is to offset immediate costs and to prepare for the future, she said.

The funding is one facet of a plan Raimondo says her administration has for rebuilding the state's health care system, a process that started even before the the pandemic hit.

The pandemic has highlighted inequities in the system, with communities of color disproportionately affected by the disease.

“This inequity that we have seen revealed or spotlighted through the crisis is real, and something that we can't accept," she said.

The state also plans to spend millions of dollars on children's health.

The pandemic has sent childhood immunizations plummeting by 35% she said.

“That’s a disaster waiting to happen,” she said.

The state Department of Health is putting together a pediatric advisory council to guide the state on how to improve health care for children, she said.

Raimondo said she also supports recently announced talks for increased collaboration between the state's two largest hospital systems, Lifespan and Care New England.

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NUMBERS TRENDING DOWN

The state Department of Health on Thursday reported 100 new coronavirus cases and 14 new fatalities.

The state has now had more than 15,300 cases and 756 deaths.

The 100 new cases was out of 3,226 tests, a 3.1% positive rate, lower than the state's target rate.

The number of people hospitalized with the disease continues to decline, with 185 people in the hospital as of Monday, the latest day for which the data was available.

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BACK TO SCHOOL

While details are still being worked out, Rhode Island's Department of Education commissioner anticipates a mix of online and in-person classes when school starts in the fall.

The goal is to get as many students back into the classroom as possible, while ensuring that they can be protected from the coronavirus, Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green told the legislature's House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare on Wednesday night.

It is “extremely important” to get students from kindergarten through the fifth grade into a physical classroom because that age group learns much better in person, she said. At the same time, children that age do not handle social distancing well.

Ultimately, each district will make decisions based on the needs of the community, using state guidelines and recommendations, she said.

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NEWPORT MANSIONS REOPEN

Two of Newport's historic mansions reopened to tourists on Thursday.

The Breakers will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily while The Elms will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, according to the Preservation Society of Newport County, which oversees 11 properties across the city.

Capacity will be limited, guests will be required to purchase tickets in advance, wear masks and maintain social distancing.

“By reopening The Breakers and The Elms, we will bring in revenue we need to survive, and our visitors will help to jumpstart Newport’s economy and support local businesses,” Trudy Coxe, executive director and CEO of the Preservation Society, said in a statement.

The society closed all its properties to the public in mid-March in response to the coronavirus and this week announced that it was laying off nearly 70% of its staff due to the resulting revenue drop.

 

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