Round-up: Community's response to COVID-19

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The following is a digest of scheduling changes, cancellations, policy announcements and other updates from local institutions, organizations, groups and businesses related to the COVID-19 crisis. Information will be added and updated as it becomes available. To include information in this listing – which is also available online – email Daniel Kittredge at dan@rhodybeat.com.

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Six schools in Cranston are serving as locations for families to pick up “grab and go” meals for children while schools are closed. The meals are available for anyone under the age of 18, and no identification is required. Pickup hours are 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Both a breakfast and lunch will be provided at pickup.

The pickup locations include George J. Peters Elementary School, Hugh B. Bain Middle School, Gladstone Elementary School, Cranston High School East, Park View Middle School and Edgewood Highland Elementary School.

For more information, visit cpsed.net.

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HealthSource RI has announced a special open enrollment period from March 18 through April 15.

“For anyone who is concerned that they need to be tested for coronavirus – or anyone who is seeking care because of coronavirus exposure – coverage will start retroactively,” a press release from the Rhode Island Department of Health reads.

To enroll or for additional information, visit healthsourceri.com or call 855-840-4774.

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National Grid

has temporarily halted its collections-related activities, including service disconnections.

“We recognize that this pandemic has brought many challenges for our customers and we want to do our part to lessen any financial impact they may face as the result of the outbreak,” Badar Khan, National Grid’s interim U.S. president, said in a statement. “We are committed to our customers’ well-being during this difficult time.” 

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The Cranston Public Library has closed all of its branches through at least March 22 following Cranston Mayor Allan Fung’s declaration of emergency in his community.

“During that time we ask our users to keep any library materials at home and do not try and return them until the library re-opens,” Library Director Ed Garcia said in a statement. “All overdue fines will be waived … While our physical buildings will be closed, the library's online services will be available 24/7.”

For additional information and updates, visit cranstonlibrary.org.

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In light of its closure, the Cranston Public Library is working to developing an online presentation of artwork created by students as part of the citywide ArtsFest exhibition. A reception for the show, which was slated to run through the end of the month, was canceled as part of the library’s closure.

“Due to the cancellation of the ArtsFest reception, we will be preparing a virtual art showcase featuring this amazing artwork,” the library wrote in a Facebook post. “We know how hard the students have worked, and want to share their talent with the community. We will post the video as soon as it is complete. Thank you for your patience.”

To stay tuned, follow the Cranston Public Library on Facebook or visit cranstonlibrary.org.

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In keeping with Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon’s recent emergency declaration, the Warwick Public Library has closed all of its branches to the public until further notice.

“Staff will be answering phone calls and checking in materials that are returned to book drops, and the homebound service will continue,” Library Director Christopher La Roux said in a statement.

Additional updates and information can be found at warwicklibrary.org.

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The Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services

has canceled all of its interlibrary delivery services through at least March 20.

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Stop & Shop announced March 16 that it has implemented new hours for customers over the age of 60 in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Starting on March 19, all Stop & Shop locations will open between 6 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. to those over the age of 60 – a segment of the population the CDC says is particularly vulnerable to the virus. Identification will not be required, but the supermarket chain said in a statement that its associates “do reserve the right to ask customers to leave if they are not a member of this age group.”

“We’re making the decision to offer this every day of the week to allow for community members in this age category to shop in a less crowded environment, which better enables social distancing. They’ll also be shopping prior to any other customers entering,” the statement reads.

Stop & Shop previously announced that most of its stores have adjusted their hours to run from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The chain continues to provide home delivery service.

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Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos has announced that his 2020 campaign kick-off event scheduled for March 24 at Pub on Park has been canceled in light of the COVID-19 situation. His website, stevestycos.com, has been updated with links to information and resources regarding the virus.

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The state’s court system has cleared its calendars through at least March 20, it was announced on March 13.

Court facilities will remain open and staff will report to work as usual, but no sessions will be held. The move applies to the Supreme Court, Superior Court, Family Court, District Court, Workers’ Compensation Court and Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.

“There will be no jury trials next week,” a statement reads. “The courts will be able to handle any and all emergency matters including but not limited to domestic violence petitions, temporary restraining orders, bail, and arraignments for charges of serious crimes.”

It adds: “The courts will continue to explore case types that would be favorable for remote hearings and next week will reassess options for limited court operations after March 20.”

For more information, visit courts.ri.gov.

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The Gaspee Days Committee has canceled the Walking Tour of Historic Pawtuxet Village event scheduled for May 18.

Erin Flynn of the Gaspee Days Committee said in an email that the event has been canceled out of “an abundance of caution.”

“The Gaspee Days Committee working closely with the Walking Tour Planning Committee … determined this was the best course of action,” she wrote. “This decision was not made lightly and made with a heavy heart. This was the first season the Walking Tour of Historic Pawtuxet Village was an official Gaspee Days Committee event.”

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Showcase Cinemas announced March 16 that it is “proactively pausing moviegoing in its theaters in North America” in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

All of the chain’s theaters were to close by 8 p.m. that night, “operations expected to resume by April 7,” according to a statement.

“All tickets purchased in advance for future shows will be refunded and all Showcase Subscribe membership accounts will be placed on hold,” the statement reads.

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Rhode Island Students of the Future announced March 12 it has canceled its seventh annual Robot Block Party, which was scheduled for April 4 at the Waterfire Arts Center in Providence.

“Sadly, what made the event so successful – the ability to touch and explore robots of all shapes and sizes and talk with thousands of robotics enthusiasts of all ages – is also what could make it a vector site for the Corona virus,” Mary Johnson, a member of the RISF Board of Directors and producer of the Robot Block Party,” said in a statement. “We did not want to risk the health of our community, or of the residents of Rhode Island.”

For more information, visit risf.net.

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Brain Week Rhode Island, which was set to mark its fifth year from March 12-22 with multiple events across the state, has been canceled.

Our decision is intended to protect these people who are on the front line, as well as our audiences and supporters,” a statement from the event’s organizers reads.

“Considering the health concerns of the day, we are mindful of the people who might be at genuine risk or those who are concerned about exposing themselves.”

To learn more, visit brainweekri.org.

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The office of Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea has announced changes to its operations in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Rhode Islanders are being urged to use the website vote.sos.ri.gov to register to vote, update voter information or apply for a mail ballot for the April 28 presidential primary.

Rhode Islanders in need of a Voter ID are being asked to make an appointment at least 24 hours in advance by calling 222-2340 or emailing elections30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

All voter information events and in-person trainings have been suspended through April 3. Trainings will be available online.

Those seeking business services such as registrations and report filing are directed to sos.ri.gov/divisions/business-services. Filings that cannot be processed online can be mailed or submitted by using a new drop box that will be installed at 148 West River St. in Providence. In-person appointments for business services are also available 24 hours in advance by calling 222-3040.

“Secretary Gorbea is in conversations with the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Board of Elections and local boards of canvassers to ensure a safe and efficient Presidential Preference Primary on April 28th,” the statement reads. “Updates will be provided when available.”

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The state’s Division of Taxation is asking taxpayers to utilize its online and telephone systems to reduce in-person visits.

“By limiting the number of in-person contacts for the foreseeable future, we can help fight the spread of the coronavirus and protect the health and well-being of taxpayers, tax professionals, and Division of Taxation employees, among others,” Department of Revenue Director Mark Furcolo said in a statement.

Additional information is available at tax.ri.gov.

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On March 13, Roger Williams Park Zoo announced it has closed through at least April 1.

"We have been monitoring the coronavirus situation, and know it is important to comply with both Mayor Jorge Elorza and Gov. Gina Raimondo on doing everything we can to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  Therefore, in the best interest of our visitors, staff, volunteers, and the animals we cherish, we will close the Zoo for two weeks," Dr. Jeremy Goodman, the zoo’s executive director, said in a statement.

The statement adds: “Animal care is the Zoo's most important concern and the amazing veterinary and keeper staff will continue to provide all the animals with dedicated, professional care daily. The Zoo has plenty of essential food, medical supplies and other crucial items needed to ensure the health of the animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not reporting any wildlife or animals in human care becoming sick with COVID-19.”

Updates will be provided on the zoo’s website, rwpzoo.org.

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The Boys & Girls Clubs of Warwick announced March 15 that it has closed all of its clubs and suspended activities, including child care, until further notice.

“As this situation is ever changing, we will update you with this information immediately as we fully understand the implications our closure has on both your child and family,” a statement from Lara D’Antuono, the organization’s executive director, reads.

Additional updates and information can be found at wbgclubs.org.

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Rhode Island Lottery Director Gerry Aubin on March 13 announced that the Twin River and Tiverton casinos will be closed for at least one week.

“In consultation with the Rhode Island Department of Health, today we have ordered the Twin River Casino and the Tiverton Casino to be closed to the public beginning 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, March 14, 2020,” Aubin said in a statement. “Impacted employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits. A limited number of employees will remain at the facilities to secure, sanitize, and maintain them. During the closure, Twin River will work with the Department of Health to implement additional protections for customers, before the facilities reopen. The casino management is fully cooperating with the Lottery on the closure. We understand that this decision may be disappointing to our customers, and we appreciate your patience. Our top priority is the safety of Rhode Islanders. The closure is anticipated to last one week, at which point the situation will be reassessed based on the most up-to-date data and guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Health.”

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Barrington Books

is offering free curbside pickup and home delivery of its products for customers in Barrington, Warren, Bristol, East Providence, Cranston, Warwick, East Greenwich and Providence. In a statement, the store says the closure of schools for the coming week prompted the new service.

“For those facing a week home with kids, please stop in and ask our knowledgeable staff about how we can help you get through a week at home,” a statement from the store reads. “We have the books, toys, games, and activities you need to make the most of this unprecedented situation. To make things even easier for all our customers, we will be offering curbside pick up and free home delivery within our local service areas.”

Barrington Books’ Cranston location in Garden City Center can be reached at 432-7222.

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WRIK Entertainment, a company that hosts trivia nights and other events at local establishments, has announced on Facebook that it will offer a “Trivia Home Edition” in the wake of the state’s prohibition on dine-in service at bars and restaurants.

“WRIK is standing with our business partners who are being affected with the temporary Dine-In restaurant, lounge, and bar restrictions. We also stand with our faithful patrons who come out nightly to play our various fun games,” the post from March 16 reads.

From Monday through Thursday for at least the next two weeks, the company will post one round of its trivia game every 30 minutes between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Answers will be posted at 9:30 p.m.

“Have fun at home, and post pictures of you, family, and friends playing at home,” the post reads. “Be sure and tag #wriktrvia.”

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The Audubon Society of Rhode Island has closed its Nature Center and Aquarium in Bristol and canceled its programming through at least March 31.

“For those who have signed up for a program that has been cancelled, Audubon will refund registration fees,” a statement from the organization reads. “But individuals may also make the choice to convert your fee into a donation. This would help us to weather the economic fallout of the virus.”

It continues: “In this time of uncertainty, walks in nature can provide a much needed source of stress relief. Audubon encourages the public to use the outdoor trails at the Nature Center and Aquarium, as well as trails on all of Audubon’s other public wildlife refuges across the state. For a listing of wildlife refuges and trail maps, visit www.asri.org/hike.”

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The Preservation Society of Newport County on March 15 announced that the Newport Mansions will be closed to visitation through at least March 29. Lectures and programs have also been canceled. Additional information is available at newportmansions.org.

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