PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The mental health and education of Rhode Island children suffered greatly last year during the coronavirus pandemic, and children of color were the hardest hit, according to data released Monday by Kids Count, the national child advocacy nonprofit.

“Unacceptable gaps continue to exist between children of color and white children in nearly every Factbook indicator,” Rhode Island Kids Count executive director Elizabeth Burke Bryant told The Providence Journal. “These gaps have persisted because of systemic racism and barriers to opportunity that must be addressed and dismantled to ensure that every child can succeed. The COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on stark economic, education, and other disparities and challenges to children’s success.”

The number of calls to Kids Link RI, a 24-hour emergency mental health and behavioral referral network, was up 22% in 2020 from the previous year, the organization said.

The number of children enrolled in kindergarten, considered a critical first step toward fluency in reading and writing, dropped 11% in 2020 from the previous year, similar to national trends as families kept their youngest home or waited for schools to open in person.



The number of people in Rhode Island hospitals with the coronavirus has dropped below 100, the first time that has happened since early October, according to state Department of Health data released Monday.

The 97 people in the hospital with the disease as of Saturday, the latest day for which the information was available, was down from 105 the previous day.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Rhode Island is edging closer to the 150,000 mark. The department reported more than 370 new cases Monday, for a total of 149,948 known cases.

Of the new cases, 330 were people who tested positive for the first time on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and 41 were people who tested positive for the first time on previous days.

The department also reported three more COVID-19-related deaths over the past three days, for a total of 2,690 fatalities.

The department does not update on weekends.