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CORONAVIRUS

Warwick to resume in-person education on January 21

Also: a retailer donates $1.7 million worth of masks and sanitizers to local communities as Rhode Island’s COVID-19 death toll approaches 2,000

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island school district criticized by Gov. Gina Raimondo for not bringing all its students back to the classroom will resume in-person learning for all children later this month.

Warwick's kindergarten and elementary school students began returning in October and November, but classes for older students remained exclusively remote. Now, middle and high school students are scheduled to resume in-person lessons on a hybrid model on Jan. 21.

Superintendent Philip Thornton told The Providence Journal that several factors make an in-person return possible, including the installation of 1,400 air purifiers, with at least two in every classroom, additional protective and safety equipment, including plexiglass shields where needed.

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“At this point, we’ve done what we needed to get ready,” Thornton said. “In our last parents’ survey, a large majority expressed the desire to go back.”

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health on Tuesday released statistics showing that the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in Rhode Island is approaching 2,000.

With 23 more fatalities reported, the total number of virus-related deaths during the pandemic has climbed to 1,970. Nationally, almost 378,000 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

The health department also reported more than 660 new confirmed cases of the disease from the previous day and a daily positivity rate of 5.7%.

The latest seven-day average positivity rate in Rhode Island is now 6.56%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from more than 767 on Dec. 28 to more than 1,128 on Monday, according to the project.

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There were more than 400 people in the state's hospitals with the disease as of Sunday, up slightly from the previous day.

Discount retailer Ocean State Job Lot is donating $1.7 million worth of face shields and masks, disinfecting hand wipes, and hand sanitizer through its charitable foundation to police and fire departments in communities where its stores are located.

“As this global health crisis continues to take a toll on our health care and public safety systems, it’s imperative to provide any support and relief to our frontline workers that we can,” David Sarlitto, Executive Director of the Ocean State Job Lot Charitable Foundation said in a statement Tuesday.

The North Kingstown-based company has 142 stores in New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

The company’s charitable foundation has now distributed more than $15 million worth of critical supplies needed in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.