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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island says it is seeking temporary, donated space to store its clothing donations during the COVID-19 crisis.
The organization continues to collect clothing, but its retail partner has had to close due to the pandemic – creating a backlog of products at its Cranston headquarters.
“The community continues to support BBBSRI by making donations and we are so grateful. These donations will ensure that BBBSRI gets back to full capacity when the pandemic is over. Right now, we need additional storage space,” Katje Afonseca, BBBSRI’s executive director, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we cannot afford to rent storage space at this time because we are not currently being paid by our partner and face significant cash flow issues. Once business resumes, we hope to be fully funded and fully operational and the product on hand is our safety net.”
BBBSRI laid off 65 percent of its employees on March 27 due to the strain of the current crisis. Willing businesses with access to dry, clean indoor space with ramp or loading dock access are asked to call 996-0653 to discuss opportunities to donate space for a short period of time.
“BBBSRI anticipates using the space through May at the latest and will work with businesses to provide a tax letter for the value of the space donated,” the statement reads.
BBBSRI also advises that collection of donated clothing and household items is being conducted in a “safe and effective manner.”
“Drivers do not interact with donors, all product is left outside to be picked up and disinfected by the driver,” the statement reads.
For more information, visit bigsri.org or 921-2434.
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 please complete this short survey. Note: UWRI will only contact respondents if there is a match.
The Community College of Rhode Island on March 23 announced it will continue with remote instruction through the remainder of the spring semester, while the college’s May commencement ceremony at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence has been canceled.
“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.”
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:
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.
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 email@example.com 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.
Hendricken to live stream Masses
Bishop Hendricken is live streaming Masses from its chapel every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday at 11 a.m. The stream can be found on Hendricken's Facebook page, @BeAHendrickenHawk.
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.
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.
The Cranston Historical Society announced that the Sprague Mansion has cancelled all of its March and April events. Updated announcements and rescheduled events will be rolled out on the CHS website, www.cranstonhistoricalsociety.org.
The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre (The Gamm) 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.
A release from the theatre says the "difficult" decision was reached "with the safety and well-being of The Gamm's employees, artists, and the public in mind, and based on the recommendations and policies of local and federal officials surrounding the coronavirus pandemic."
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 release also announced 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.
The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts has moved its grant deadline to April 15. Those with questions or who may need support can reach out to individual directors, or Executive Director Randy Rosenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.”
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.
The Salvation Army announced that its three community centers in Providence, Pawtucket and Newport, as well as the Adult Rehabilitation Center Shelter, are open and following their normal schedules.
The organization said via a press release that its greatest need is for additional food and monetary donations to "address the increased request for assistance from households facing food insecurity due to various factors stemming from the impact that this virus is having on our local communities."
Donations can be delivered to community centers, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and those interested in donating can call 401-490-0240 or text GIVERI to 71777. They can also email Roger.Duperree@use.SalvationArmy.org.
Salvation Army is requesting the following items: frozen meats, one pound packages preferred; canned tuna and chicken; pasta and pasta sauce; canned soup, pasta, chili and stew, cereal, oatmeal and pancake mix; packaged meals and side dishes; canned fruit and fruit juice; powdered milk and powdered drink mix; unexpired baby food and formula; diapers; paper goods; granola bars and breakfast bars, macaroni and cheese and rice; canned vegetables and beans; bread, peanut butter and jelly; and sugar.
"In order to minimize numerous people in tight, crowded spaces, we will distribute Soup Kitchen meals outside our buildings in Take-Out containers/bags per our regular scheduled times," the release notes. "Additionally, we will modify our client choice food pantry and distribute prepared food bags, instead, in order to reduce the potential of spreading the virus."
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.
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.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island has announced that its various Your Blue Store locations – including Cranston, Warwick, East Providence and Lincoln – have closed until further notice.
“Any BCBSRI member needing immediate assistance should call the number on their member ID card for faster service. For more information on BCBSRI's response to coronavirus disease (COVID-19), please visit bcbsri.com/coronavirus,” a statement from the company reads.
BCBSRI has also announced it will “ extend coverage to telephonic triage by most specialist providers and waive member copays and deductibles for these calls.” The policy will remain in effect through April 3, at which point it will be reassessed.
“As the state’s largest health insurer, we are in a unique position to lead efforts to ensure our members continue to have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare during this public health crisis,” Kim Keck, BCBSRI president and CEO said in a statment. “The action we’re taking today recognizes the importance of uninterrupted care for high-risk patients and the benefit of keeping these individuals home whenever possible to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.”
BCBSRI has additionally waived copays and cost shares for COVID-19 testing; waived prior authorization and referral requirements for COVID-19 treatment; allowed members to fill prescriptions earlier than the standard 30 days; moved to reimburse participating primary care providers and behavioral health providers for telephonic triage without member cost sharing; and expanded coverage for telephonic behavioral health services.
Additional information is available at bcbsri.com/coronavirus.
With all of the state’s public libraries closed through at least March 22, the Ocean State Libraries consortium has announced new steps in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Due dates on all items have been extended until May 1. Expiring library cards have been reset to expire May 1 so that library users can make the most of ebooks and other digital resources and services. Fines on all items that accrue from March 1 through the end of the public health crisis will be waived.
Existing holds will be honored. However, the ability to place new holds has been temporarily turned off.
The investment in ebooks and digital audiobooks in OSL’s eZone will be expanded so that patrons can continue to enjoy books and reading.
Ocean State Libraries is also working in partnership with the Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services. They are developing a collection of online resources for students and families to help all Rhode Islanders meet their learning and recreational needs from home.
For additional information, visit oslri.org/library-closings.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”