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Saturday, March 28, 2020

UPDATED: COVID-19 cases confirmed in Charlestown

Short Takes #5 on COVID-19 for Progressive Charlestown readers
By Will Collette

Here’s a rundown of news items that may be of special interest to Progressive Charlestown readers.

WPRI graphic posted on Twitter
Governor issues "Stay Home" order

This afternoon, Gina Raimondo issued an Executive order closing non-essential retailers, telling people to stay at home and banning gatherings of more than 5 people. The order extends to April 13 so I guess we're not going to celebrate a Trumpian Easter.

In Charlestown....

The Rhode Island Health Department has posted “<5” confirmed cases of coronavirus in Charlestown. The “<” means “less than” so it could be 1 case or it could be four. We don’t know the age, gender or condition of these folks, nor do we know if they are permanent residents or early-returning summer people.

There are a dwindling number of municipalities with zero confirmed cases. They include Richmond, Exeter, Block Island and West Greenwich. CLICK HERE for the list. It changes daily. Hopkinton, like Charlestown, went from zero to “<5.”

Our quickly changing numbers are largely due to ramped up testing. We had been lagging behind Massachusetts and Connecticut but are now getting up to speed.

First Rhode Island deaths reported

Rhode Island lost its first two people in the last 24 hours: a person in their 80s last night and a person in their 70s today. Both had underlying conditions. No other details available at this writing.

State Police, National Guard visit our summer neighbors

By Mike LuckovichAtlanta Journal-Constitution
Under Governor Gina Raimondo’s order to require New Yorkers staying in Rhode Island to self-quarantine, State Police or National Guard troops will start visiting the summer residences of returning New Yorkers to make sure they understand that order. 

This may happen as early as today.

They have also been stopping cars with New York plates to collect basic information and to hand them copies of the Governor’s order about self-quarantine. 

This prompted an objection from RI’s chapter of the ACLU over possible violation of the Constitutional right against unreasonable searches.

Gov. Raimondo acknowledged that concern but noted we are under a state of emergency declarations and these actions are consistent with federal guidelines for the treatment of New Yorkers.

But Charlestown’s own Town Solicitor for Indian Affairs Joe Larisa challenged the Governor, saying in a Tweet
From the Wash Post, the fed guidance is a quarantine for those who left the NYC metro area, NOT all of NY State, so the Gov is NOT following fed guidance as she claimed at presser.
At this writing, I don’t know if Larisa was speaking on behalf of Charlestown. Larisa’s usual remit from the town is to fight anything the Narragansett Indian Tribe wants to do. We pay him more than $20,000 a year to carry on the town’s on-going war with the Tribe.

Since Charlestown has issued its own self-quarantine order that not only targets all New Yorkers, but also those from Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts, it looks to me like town lawyer Larisa is speaking contrary to town policy.

Restrictions extended on most activities

The governor has extended COVID-19 measures as follows (from Patch):

At least April 13
  • Restaurants and cafes are closed to dine-in customers.
  • Hair salons, nail salons, and spas are closed.
  • Indoor recreation like movie theaters, Go-kart racing, and laser tag are closed.
  • All gatherings larger than 10 people are prohibited.
At least April 25
  • All people who fly into T.F. Green airport must self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • All people traveling to Rhode Island from New York must self-quarantine for 14 days.
At least May 8
  • The state’s Open Meetings Act is suspended, which means government boards can meet virtually rather than in person.
  • Health insurers most cover tele-health services.
By Matt DaviesNewsday
  • The state’s two casinos are closed.
  • Nursing homes can’t have visitors.
  • The DMV is open to appointments only.
DMV changes

If you need to deal with the DMV, you can only do that in Cranston at the main office and only by appointment. The Wakefield office is closed. Most deadlines and expiration dates have been extended.

The feds have moved the deadline requiring driver’s licenses to conform to RealID standards back by a year to October 2021. The RealID process made license renewals agonizingly complicated.

You have to assemble a sheaf of documents and hope they are acceptable to meet the federal standards. Last October, I renewed my license at the AAA office in the Salt Pond Shopping Center and it took required a two-hour wait, most of it spent standing in line.


As reported, Rhode Island’s Presidential Primary has been postponed until June 2. The deadline to REGISTER is May 3. You can do that on-line by CLICKING HERE.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea is expecting most votes to be cast by mail. You can get a mail-in ballot by CLICKING HERE.

Rhode Island is still one of those states that require you to cite an excuse for an absentee ballot, though that is going through some changes

Among the four acceptable excuses, #4 is probably the most applicable to our current state of affairs: 4. I may not be able to vote at my polling place in my city/town on the day of the election”

There is $400 million in the just-enacted COVID-19 stimulus package to help states expand voter access.

Rhode Island checks won’t bounce

Just a few days ago, the RI Disaster Emergency Financing Board voted to $300 million in short-term borrowing to keep our accounts solvent.

This provoked an uproar from Charlestown state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi, who is also House Minority Leader as well as RI Republican Chair Sue Cienki to complain the process was unconstitutional, terrible and awful and that instead, the state should take money out of its rainy day fund.

In his Nesi’s Notes column today, WPRI’s Ted Nesi gave us this interesting tidbit:
Meeting as the Disaster Emergency Financing Board, General Assembly leaders on Thursday authorized up to $300 million in short-term borrowing to manage the state’s cash flow now that income tax payments aren’t due until July. One question that came up: why can’t the state first tap its roughly $200 million rainy day fund? After the hearing, Treasurer Magaziner told reporters something I didn’t know: there is no rainy day fund. He said the State Budget Reserve and Cash Stabilization Account — its official name — is actually just a required amount that has to be in the General Fund at the end of the fiscal year when all the accounts are balanced. So it’s not like a personal savings account where the money is sitting there available to be tapped anytime. Even if it was a separate account, though, it wouldn’t be a huge amount: Rhode Island ranks 40th out of the 50 states for how much money it keeps in its rainy day fund as a share of expenditures, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Massachusetts ranks 21st, and Connecticut ranks 14th.
Trump versus the Governors

As the Pandemic gets worse and Dear Leader’s mental health problems become more obvious, the politics of the crisis now center on the struggle between Donald Trump and the nation’s governors.

Many of the flash points are sparked by Trump’s remarkable ability to lie, distort and misrepresent coronavirus, as he has done hundreds of times since January.

Take for example, this postcard which was delivered to every postal address in America. 

Aside from it looking like a taxpayer-funded Trump campaign mailer, the advice listed on the back of this postcard is a summary of what we’ve all been hearing about social distancing and sanitation.

And that’s fine, except that - at the same time - Trump also sent a letter (READ HERE) to all of the Governor’s telling them in rather obtuse language to get ready for him to reverse all those guidelines. He REALLY wants his Easter Sunday miracle.

On his conference calls with Governors, he keeps telling them that he’s going to lift restrictions. 

But aside from the insanity of doing that from a public health standpoint, he misses one key point: it’s the states and municipalities that have imposed the restrictions and Trump can’t order them lifted.

Trump has also publicly declared that he has ordered VEEP Mike Pence to ignore governors that are not personally appreciative to Trump for all the great stuff Trump is doing, singling out the Governors of Michigan and Washington State in particular.

By Bill BramhallNew York Daily News
Now, a couple of Progressive Charlestown readers criticized my writing on the COVID-19 issue for slamming Dear Leader Trump. 

Sorry you still enthrall to our lunatic-in-chief, but it is what it is.

We lost weeks we could have been preparing because Trump can’t handle any truths that don’t fit into his alternative world-view, doesn’t believe in science and thinks he can alter reality through an Executive Order.

If Trump really cared about this country, he would acknowledge his inability to handle this crisis and resign. If not, maybe we need to impeach him again or Pence and the Cabinet need to remove him under the terms of the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.

But instead, we get his daily Dr. Demento show where we never know what he will say next – and then we watch to see how long it takes him to do a 180 degree reversal.