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Monday, August 10, 2020

Short Takes on Rhode Island in 2020: The Plague Year

Things sure move fast when you’re not having fun
By Will Collette
By Ann Telnaes, Washington Post
How quickly things change! In less than a month, Rhode Island went from being a nationally-praised model for its battle against to the pandemic to being banned in Boston. It was us with the State Police check points, stopping out-of-staters and directly them to quarantine.

Massachusetts has joined New York, New Jersey and Connecticut in requiring any Rhode Islander seeking to spend more than 24 hours in their states to register and quarantine for two weeks.   

While you can still cross state lines to shop, work or see a doctor, you’d better be out of town before sundown. Essential workers, such as those who work at Electric Boat, are exempt.

Why is this happening?

The surge started shortly after the Fourth of July according to Health Department data - given the 10-14 incubation period of the disease, you can point to 4th of July gatherings as the source. We have seen a steady increase in daily cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations. They reached the tipping points that triggered our neighbors to ban our travel.

Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott blames some of the surge to out of state travel tweeting that roughly 12% of our positive cases reported recent travel to Florida, travel in the northeast, and to Midwest.”

Rhode Island still maintains a very long list of states WE subject to quarantine. The quarantine applies to YOU if your visit one of the states on the list as well as to any visitor from those states.

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Gina on the warpath

Up until recently, Governor Gina Raimondo got loads of positive national press for her handling of the coronavirus crisis, boosting her reputation to the point where she briefly made the media’s speculation list as a possible Joe Biden vice presidential pick.

We're not seeing such stories any more so now she is furious, and blames the COVID-19 surge to the resumption of large social gatherings often with few masks in evidence.

She has ordered the State Police to set up a special unit to bust large social gatherings and is asking citizens to call in reports of such events to (401)764-5554.

Gathering size has been reduced to 15 and Raimondo suggests those 15 people should only be people you know.

Bars must now close by 11 PM; restaurants with bars can stay open longer, but the bar section must be closed at 11. Bars are being closely monitoring for compliance.

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GOP kvetching

Former Republican House Minority Leader Brian Newberry kvetched that Raimondo should also apply her “edicts” to mass public protests. Presumably he’s talking about Black Lives Matter solidarity marches and protests.

RI House Republicans show how serious they are about fighting the
pandemic. Only two wear masks. Flip Filippi, at the podium of course,
wears his at half-staff.
Yeah, point taken. However, in the dozens of photos and videos I’ve seen of BLM solidarity protests, it’s rare to see an unmasked face, unlike the bar room scenes and social gatherings that have drawn Raimondo’s ire.

We should also consider the anti-mask, anti-pandemic rallies at the State House where NOBODY wore a mask, or even this little event ( → ) by the House Republican caucus where it’s clear the RIGOP is split on whether or not to take the pandemic seriously.

Politics and pandemic

Most sensible people see the value of mail-in voting to curb the pandemic. Long lines at polling places earlier in the primary season have proven to be spreaders of the virus even though many voters say that they will vote this year even if they have to crawl on hands and knees over broken glass.

Rhode Island has loosened some mail-in voting by including concern about catching COVID-19 as a reason to vote by mail. But the state still had a requirement that your ballet must either be witnessed by a notary or by two witnesses.

The ACLU on behalf of Common Cause, the RI League of Women Voters, and individual voters sued in federal court to get the notary/witnesses requirement waived for this election. The US District Court agreed granted the ACLU petition to set aside the notary/witnesses requirement.

The Republican National Committee and state Republican Party opposed the ACLU case at the district level and when they lost, they filed an appeal with the US First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Charlestown’s Republican state representative Blake “Flip” Filippi and town Indian Affairs Counsel Joe Larisa took active roles in opposing the ACLU suit. Donald Trump has made mail-in voting his 2020 election boogeyman, claiming (with no evidence) it will lead to massive fraud. Flip, Larisa and the RIGOP are dancing to his tune.

THEY LOST AGAIN.

The First Circuit upheld the District Court decision noting Taking an unusual and in fact unnecessary chance with your life is a heavy burden to bear simply to vote.”

They also labeled the state and national GOP arguments that fraud might occur in voting without the notary/witnesses requirement to be "dubious as a matter of fact and reality.” 

So you can vote by mail without worrying about the hassle and risk of having your ballot notorized and/or witnessed. 

If you want to vote by mail, you must apply for a ballot from your municipal board of canvassers. Get the form for the September 9 primary HERE and the form for the November 3 general election HERE

August 18 is the deadline for the primary. September 13 is the deadline for the general election. Allow for slower than normal mail delivery

Dennis Algiere has an opponent

Image may contain: 1 person, beard, text that says 'LET'S GET IT DUNN RIGHT'State Senator Dennis Algiere has represented Westerly and Charlestown for 13 terms. He is rarely opposed. As one of the virtually extinct liberal Republicans, he is well-liked by many.

Since Trump’s election, Algiere has drastically lowered his profile and has been almost invisible and silent on nearly all of the important issues of the day. That may have saved him from being primaried by the Trump-Right.

But silence and invisibility are not a perfect shield nor the best way to serve the public. 

Algiere now has an opponent, albeit a write-in opponent, in 26 year-old Westerly resident Julius Dunn.

You’ll see him often on weekend mornings outside the old Westerly Post Office with others carrying Black Lives Matter signs.

Dunn is running as an independent and acknowledges his campaign is a long-shot at best. However, he says he plans to stick to it and to fight for racial and economic justice.

He is profiled HERE by Rhode Island Public’s Radio.

Incumbent Dennis Algiere was asked for comment. He lives within walking distance of the Black Lives Matter protest site but has not been there nor talked to any of the protesters saying:
“I would like to go down there. I just haven’t had the opportunity… These are issues that are longstanding. They do need to be addressed and talked about, and I’m glad he and his protest group are bringing these forward, not only to our community but to our state. They do need to be discussed and talked about.”
Writing in a candidate’s name is very easy. There is a blank line on the ballot below the candidates for each office labelled “WRITE-IN.” Step one: find that line. Step two: write in the name.