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Providence parents air out complaints about ventilation at schools

Roger Williams Middle School in Providence.
Roger Williams Middle School in Providence.Ryan T. Conaty/The Boston Globe

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Happy Friday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Edward Fitzpatrick and while Kamala Harris is proud to be called “Momala,” I’m not sure I’ll go with “Dadward.” Follow me on Twitter @FitzProv or send tips to Edward.Fitzpatrick@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 20,240 confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, after adding 97 new cases. The most recent test-positive rate was 2.3 percent. The state announced one more death, bringing the total to 1,019. There were 80 people in the hospital, 10 in intensive care, and four were on ventilators.


He’s not just venting about ventilation.

Jeremy Giller, a parent of three children in Providence public schools, is among those calling for the district to provide much more specific plans about how individual school buildings will handle ventilation and airflow to try to ensure it’s safe for students to return this fall amid the pandemic.

Giller said he expected the Providence district to produce a reopening plan that would serve as a model for the rest of Rhode Island, given that the state took over city schools last year after a scathing Johns Hopkins University report.

But he said the district plan fails to mention “ventilation” once, and the only reference to “airflow” calls for opening windows, “when possible,” if someone in the building has a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

In messages to officials and a thread on Twitter, Giller has argued that there is mounting evidence that COVID-19 is transmittable through tiny droplets in the air, especially in poorly ventilated indoor spaces. And he said the state has documented deficiencies with air distribution and air handlers in eight Providence school buildings.


Giller called for Providence to adopt the kind of detailed, building-specific plans that are being used in Cambridge, Mass., where the school district is purchasing air scrubbers and verifying ventilation performance with carbon dioxide detectors.

”This lackadaisical approach to this critical safety issue of ventilation would not be accepted in Barrington or East Greenwich,” Giller said, naming two of the state’s most affluent towns. “And it’s not acceptable in Providence.”

In response, Providence Public School District spokeswoman Laura Hart said that air quality is an important factor in reopening schools.

”This summer, Providence Public Schools is currently working with an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) engineer to review airflow in our buildings and determine what additional steps need to take place to ensure adequate ventilation,” she said. “We are also working with contractors to assess and address window functionality in all classrooms.”

Hart said the goal is for schools with HVAC systems to increase outside air intake, and for schools without HVAC systems to use a combination of fans, open windows, and other portable devices to increase air circulation.

Giller said families should be given more information before the Aug. 19 deadline to decide if they’ll send their students to a virtual learning academy — or that deadline should be pushed back.


⚓ The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request by Republicans to stop Rhode Island from relaxing in-person witness requirements for mail ballots amid the pandemic. The unsigned, one-page order notes that Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Neil M. Gorsuch disagreed with the decision. So it’s possible Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and/or Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh sided with the court’s liberal justices. But as part of the high court’s “shadow docket,” the exact vote is unclear. For an interesting take on the ruling, check out this SCOTUSblog piece.


Amanda Milkovits reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci joined Governor Gina M. Raimondo for a Facebook Live event Thursday, concluding on an upbeat note: “This will end for sure, and it will end with a combination of maintaining the public health principles together with my cautious optimism for a vaccine beginning of next year,” Fauci said. “We’re going to be a year from now celebrating how we got through this together.”

⚓ Globe columnist Kevin Cullen says that going forward, Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin might want to consider asking himself WWJT -- What Would Jesus Tweet?

⚓ The New York Times interviewed more than three dozen people about how Joe Biden picked a running mate. The story said Governor Gina M. Raimondo -- “a centrist with formidable academic and business credentials” -- had a “standout” interview that left the search committee “dazzled.” But she was hampered by a “limited national profile” and an “adversarial relationship with influential labor unions.”


Dr. Kelly Wong, an emergency medicine resident at Brown University, founded Patient Voting, a nonpartisan group that will help registered voters across the country cast their ballots if they’re unexpectedly hospitalized in the days and weeks leading up to November’s presidential election.

⚓ While some experts say the country could be in deep trouble with the pandemic this fall and winter, Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said he sees some signs of hope. Jha has been appointed as the next dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, effective Sept. 1.

⚓ In a Globe opinion piece, Mary Ann Sorrentino takes a look at outdoor dining in Rhode Island, saying, “In a way, the terrible virus is responsible for reminding us that we can escape its horror, however briefly, by moving meals outside.”

Politics: Jazmine Ulloa reports that Kamala Harris — whose fans refer to themselves as the “KHive” (a nod to Beyoncé‘s “BeyHive”) — won’t be alone to fight against racist and sexist attacks online: #wehaveherback.

Sports: Forget rain delays. On Thursday, the Boston Red Sox faced a mystery drone delay at Fenway Park. Thanks, 2020.

Travel: With customers concerned about the pandemic, luxury hotels and resorts are beginning to offer high-end versions of glamping.

Art: Murray Whyte found a sense of healing and hope at Boston’s reopened art museums.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what's happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.


BIRTHDAYS: Rhode Map readers have sent another round of Happy Birthday wishes to: Penelope Lufkin (11), Aurora Beckett (97), Jonah Bramson (13), Chris Floyd (51), Katie Nee, Terri Marie Kelley (66), Thomas Scott (12), Jill Davidson, Eugenia Rayner (84), and Mark Teoli (60).

⚓ At noon, the United Way of Rhode Island will host a Facebook Live event titled “Returning to the Classroom: A Community First Conversation” with Providence schools Superintendent Harrison Peters and South Kingstown Superintendent Linda Savastano.

⚓ At noon, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority Finance Committee will meet via video conference to discuss COVID-19′s impact on RIPTA finances, among other topics.

⚓ At 6 p.m., Stages of Freedom and Jazz is a Rainbow present “Aretha: Queen of Soul,” a virtual tribute concert with 11 teens and professional musicians held via Facebook Live and YouTube.

⚓ Do you ️♥ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com or follow me on Twitter @FitzProv. See you tomorrow.

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Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.