COVID-19 digest

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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, email Daniel Kittredge at dan@rhodybeat.com.

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A number of supermarkets and other stores have announced special shopping hours for people over the age of 60 and those with chronic medical conditions. Here is a full list provided by the Rhode Island Office of Healthy Aging:
Aldi’s: 6-7 a.m.
Clements Market: 7-8 a.m.
Brigido’s Fresh Markets: 7-10 a.m.
Dave’s Marketplace (large locations): 7-8 a.m.
Dave’s Marketplace (small locations): 8-9 a.m.
Dollar General: 6-7:30 a.m.
Jerry’s Market: 7-8 a.m.
Ma & Pa’s (Hope Valley): curbside pickup
Richmond Farms Fresh Market: 7:30-8 a.m.
Roch’s Fresh Foods: free delivery
Save-A-Lot: 8-9 a.m.
Seabra: 6-7 a.m.
Shaw’s: 7-9 a.m., Tuesday and Thursday
Stop & Shop: 6-7:30 a.m.
Target: 7-8 a.m.
Walmart: 6-7 a.m., Tuesday
Whole Foods: 8-9 a.m.

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HealthSource RI has announced a special open enrollment period 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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The Community College of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College on March 23 both announced they are moving to remote instruction for the remainder of the spring semester and have canceled their respective May commencement ceremonies.
“To our students, commencement is a powerful symbol of your achievement, and I know how much walking across that stage to receive your diploma means to you and your family,” CCRI President Meghan Hughes wrote in a message to the college community. “It also means so much to the faculty and staff at the college to celebrate you. Although we won’t be coming together at the Dunk, the college will work hard to find a way to celebrate the Class of 2020 at a later date.”
“Without question, this decision was not taken lightly, nor was it taken in the absence of consideration of other viable alternatives. We know that this unbelievable final semester at Rhode Island College will leave an indelible mark on your memories as you look back over your college and life journey,” RIC President Frank Sanchez wrote in his own message. “Please know that although we are not currently able to fully recognize your accomplishments with all the pomp and circumstance that your achievements deserve, we will honor you appropriately at another time and will share those plans in the coming weeks.”

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Some good news was the only way to classify the report we received from Sue Foster of Warwick. On Monday, she and her husband, Jim, went on a search to buy toilet paper. After finding none at eight stores, they were on their way home when one of their tires started losing air. They made a stop at Herb’s at Wilde’s Corner and the tire was quickly fixed. When they expressed the wish it was as easy to find toilet paper, the service station gave them a packet.

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The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, is asking that the bells of all Catholic churches in the state be rung for five minutes every Sunday morning until the coronavirus crisis is over.

“This symbolic gesture will speak to our whole community of the presence of God, will help to unite the Diocese spiritually, and will signal hope for our people, reminding them that their churches are still there, eager to welcome them home in the very near future,” Tobin said.

Catholic churches are being asked to ring their bells for approximately five minutes each Sunday morning at 9 a.m., beginning March 29.

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Rep. Camille F.J. Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) has announced that the fourth annual Military and Veterans Outreach Day, originally scheduled for March 31, has been canceled.
The event, which has been organized by Vella-Wilkinson since 2017, gives veterans and their families an opportunity to network and get a greater understanding of the resources available to them.
“While this pandemic continues to have a profound effect on all of us, I pray that our veterans and military community stay safe during this crisis,” said Representative Vella-Wilkinson.
Veterans and military families are invited to contact Jerry Squatrito, clerk of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, directly with any questions or concerns. His email is jsquatrito@rilegislature.gov. He can also be reached at 222-2933.

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MetLife Foundation announced Tuesday it is donating $100,000 to Rhode Island Community Food Bank to help deal with increased demand for their services as a result of coronavirus. 
Food banks face the challenge of getting shelf-stable food into people’s homes as quickly as possible, especially now that vulnerable populations such as the elderly have been advised to practice social distancing. In addition, food banks face greater need from families with children who no longer have access to meals at schools.
“We want to help those impacted by coronavirus,” said Mike Zarcone, head of Corporate Affairs for MetLife and Chairman of MetLife Foundation. “That includes the communities in Rhode Island where we work and live. We know that children out of school and seniors face food insecurity as a result of COVID-19, and we are committed to help.”
 
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United Way of Rhode Island is creating a list of volunteers as a proactive measure to protect and support local communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Anyone interested in helping nonprofits meet Rhode Islanders’ basic needs may complete a short survey through the organization’s website, uwri.org. Note: UWRI will only contact respondents if there is a match.

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The COVID-19 crisis has forced the Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England to suspended its programming, including cookie sales, through at least April 3. But the organization and its members continue to embrace the spirit of service to the community.
Local Girl Scouts have shifted to a cookie donation effort aimed at supporting local food pantries, nursing homes and hospitals – institutions and individuals “who can use additional assistance and cheer during these stressful and confusing times,” according to a statement.
The Cookie Share program is an annual offshoot of regular cookie sales, providing a means for customers to purchase packages of cookies for donation to a range of local organizations.
“Giving back to the community is a big part of what Girl Scouts learn through participating and we feel that it is even more important at this time as so many people have been affected by the Coronavirus,” the statement reads. “This week GSSNE is donating over 2,000 packages of cookies to local organizations with the hope of putting a smile on the faces of those who have been impacted and the medical staff who are working tirelessly to treat those who are ill.”
Members of the community interested in purchasing cookies for the Cookie Share program can contact customercare@gssne.org for more information. Proceeds from the sale of the cookies will help support local Girl Scouts along with the organizations who will be the beneficiaries of the cookies.
Meanwhile, in lieu of traditional programming, local Girl Scouts are invited to utilize a number of online learning resources. Additional information can be found at gssne.org/en/our-council/covid-19-information.html.

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The Rhode Island Association of Realtors and its subsidiary, State-Wide Multiple Listing Service, have called on all Rhode Island Realtors to stop holding open houses until further notice to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. RIAR and MLS urge members to use modern technology instead.
“The priority of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors is the well-being of our members and customers. With more than 5000 Realtors across the state, we need to be community leaders and do all that we can to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further,” said Shannon Buss, president of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors.
“We realize that Realtors will continue to receive requests from sellers for home tours, whether through open houses or private showings. It’s our job to educate them about tools like virtual tours that are available through MLS. In today’s online world, MLS has more options than ever before for conducting business remotely,” said Chris Whitten, president of State-Wide MLS.

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CVS Health has announced its plans to “immediately fill 50,000 full-time, part-time and temporary roles across the country” as part of its response to the COVID-19 crisis. Those positions include store associates, home delivery drivers, distribution center employees and customer service professionals.
“The company will utilize a technology-enabled hiring process that includes virtual job fairs, virtual interviews and virtual job tryouts,” CVS said in a statement. “Many roles will be filled by existing CVS Health clients who have had to furlough workers, including Hilton and Marriott.”
The company also said it will award bonuses of between $150 and $500 to “pharmacists and certain other health care professionals on the frontlines, store associates and managers, and other site-based hourly employees”; launch a new program to assist employees with child and elder or adult dependent care; and provide 24 hours of paid sick leave to part-time employees “for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
For more information, visit cvshealth.com.

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The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre announced that it has canceled its remaining performances for the 2019-20 season.
The cancellations include the formerly suspended run of Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” and Amy Herzog’s “Mary Jane,” which was up next.
In a statement, Artistic Director Tony Estrella said he hopes to revive the theatre’s run of “Assassins” this summer, while “Mary Jane” would run during the 2020-21 season. The statement also indicates that spring Gamm Studio classes will be held online, while Gamm Summer Intensive, Gamm Summer Intensive Jr. and Gamm Summer Youth camps are proceeding as planned for now.

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The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts has moved its grant deadline from April 1 to April 15. Those with questions or who may need support can reach out to individual directors or Executive Director Randy Rosenbaum at randall.rosenbaum@arts.ri.gov.
Those who are interested may join the Artists and Creatives of Rhode Island Facebook group, which hosts daily meetups via Zoom at 3 p.m.

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The Rhode Island Community Food Bank has made adjustments to its operations in response to the COVID-19 crisis and is asking members of the community to provide financial support for its efforts if possible.
In a message posted on its website, rifoodbank.org, on March 16, the Food Bank wrote: “For the safety of our staff and volunteers, we have canceled volunteer shifts for the next 2 weeks. Staff members have been reassigned to sort and pack food in small groups to ensure that we can maintain food distribution. Our top priority is to ensure that our network of pantries remains strong and able to distribute healthy, nutritious food to those who need it most. The ability of our member agencies to continue to serve guests will change as this crisis develops, so we are regularly updating the Agency List on the Find Food page of our website. The best way you can help support this critical work right now is to make a financial donation to the Food Bank. We anticipate an increase in need as many people find themselves out of work and the economy worsens. Every donation will ensure that we can maintain our operations well into the future while continuing to acquire and distribute healthy food to some of the most vulnerable populations, including children and seniors.”

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Following Gov. Gina Raimondo’s announcement that K-12 schools will be closed through at least April 3, the Rhode Island Interscholastic League has again delayed the start of the spring sports season. The league had previously delayed the spring start date to March 23, and a new date has not yet been scheduled.
“The RIIL understands how important sports are to its student-athletes and will do whatever it can to salvage as much of the spring season as possible, while remaining in compliance with the guidelines set forth by the Rhode Island Department of Health and maintaining the health and safety of the Rhode Island community as its top priority,” the league said in a statement.
For more information, visit riil.org.

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence is distributing Stop & Shop gift cards to members of the community who are out of work as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. More information is available by calling the Diocese’s West Warwick office at 823-6211, its Woonsocket office at 762-2849 or its Wakefield office at 783-3149.

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The state’s court system has suspended jury trials through at least April 17.
The courts remain open for emergency matters, restraining orders, protective orders, arraignments and bail hearings. Members of the public are urged not to visit courthouses unless absolutely necessary. The state’s Supreme Court has also asked attorneys to refrain from entering courthouses unless it is an emergency.
For more information, visit courts.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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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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