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Newport City Councilors today hosted a remote City Council workshop for the purpose of receiving a COVID-19 update from City Manager Joe Nicholson.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) reported that there were 3,529 COVID-19 positive cases in Rhode Island, 87 COVID-19 associated fatalities, and 229 COVID-19 patients hospitalized.

According to RIDOH data, positive cases in Newport County include 21 cases in Newport, 18 in Middletown, 16 in Portsmouth, 26 in Tiverton, 7 in Little Compton, and 6 in Jamestown. Note that those numbers are cumulative and the report doesn’t .

On hand for City Council were Councilor’s Bova, Ceglie, Leonard, McCalla, McLaughlin, Napolitano, and Taylor. City Manager Joe Nicholson, City Solicitor Chris Behan, and Newport Fire Department Chief Brian Dugan were also on the call.

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City Manager Joe Nicholson began the call by reviewing Rhode Island Department of Health’s statistics. Nicholson said “we have had one fatality here in Newport that council is all aware of”.

Nicholson reviewed Governor Raimondo’s order regarding cloth face masks (that begins Saturday). City employees, public safety are all wearing masks.

Nicholson provided an update on construction projects that were scheduled and are happening in the City. City Manager has call on April 17th to chat about first phase of Pell Bridge Realignment construction project.

Nicholson said City Council has received communication from VHB to discuss environmental conditions that have been found under the railroad tracks / the “first mile”. That virtual meeting is scheduled to take place on April 29th.

Next Tuesday, Nicholson will participate on a conference call with DEM to discuss what the summer will look like for the beaches and state parks.

Nicholson says that City has enacted new harbor, docking ordinances. “We’ve made the determination to be very soft and understanding when it comes to the harbor this upcoming season”.

Nicholson says Emergency Operation System is fully operational, providing food.

Nicholson on Fire Department – six firefighters have tested positive. Two have since returned back to work. Nicholson on Police Department – one officer has tested positive. “He’s doing fine, he’s probably a week / week and a half into it”.

Newport Fire Department continues to respond to calls for “flu like symptoms”. NFD are averaging 3 – 4 calls per day for these calls.

Newport Police Department continues to do compliance checkups and monitor public areas for congregations of people.

Nicholson said EMS department is in daily contact with Newport Hospital. Nicholson has a call one a week with Newport Hospital. The tent at Newport Hospital has not been operational. Hospital continues to work on staff testing. Hospital continues to work on surge plan in the event that it is needed.

Nicholson reminds all residents to sign up for RAVE alerts, best way to keep notified of City news.

Nicholson hopes that new Open Meetings order from the Governor is a “little more lenient” and has more lee way, in terms of budget and deadlines.

Nicholson says he will provide council after the meeting with more information regarding businesses and other orders.

In response to question from Mayor Bova about positive cases at nursing homes and at Newport Hospital, Newport Fire Department Chief Brian Dugan confirms 1 person currently hospitalized with COVID-19 at Newport Hospital. They have had no more than two positive COVID-19 cases at any time at Newport Hospital. People have gone to Newport Hospital, tested positive, and gone home.

Dugan confirms that their “are a couple cases” at Newport nursing homes. Would not identify nursing homes due to privacy concerns.

Jamie Bova and Susan Taylor ask who receives press releases, city newsletters, and other updates, Nicholson says he will have to follow up with Tom Shevlin, Communications for the City of Newport. Shevlin later joined in on the call stated they have three different media lists (local, statewide). Nonprofit organizations and individual groups do not receive necessarily receive media press releases. All residents and organizations invited to sign up for city’s newsletter.

Angela McCalla asks about food, meals, and other needs. Dugan said today they provided 110 meals at Emergency Operations , 229 meals given out last week. Meals equals a weeks worth of food. They are also providing 300 meals, via Meals on Wheels, to senior citizens. They are trying to up that distribution but the food bank isn’t able to fill that capacity. Those over 60 years old will be able to take advantage of this until June 1.

In response to a question from Ceglie, Dugan says main distribution for families has been at Pell School by Rhode Island Food Bank. A lot of the food provided has been MRE’s (ready to eat meals). There are two different pods of food available. On Friday’s, Meals on Wheels delivers seven frozen meals to seniors. Dugan reminds services are still available at EBCAP and MLK Center.

Nicholson says Farmers Market at Pell School went well last Saturday, it’s a good supplemental option.

The meeting was held via Zoom and although the public was welcome to call in, no public comment was encouraged or allowed.

Nicholson indicated that he would like to have a budget discussion next Wednesday with City Council. Waiting on further guidance on whether they can or not.

Newport City Council is expected to receive their next update from the City Manager on Tuesday, March 21st.

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