PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — To the relief of many, Rhode Island reopened public restrooms Wednesday at the Kennedy Plaza transit hub in Providence, which had been closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority also recently reopened to the general public bathroom facilities at the Newport Transportation and Visitors Center and the Pawtucket Transit Center.
“Reopening public restrooms at three busy transit facilities in our state is a necessary step to address public need as we re-emerge from the pandemic,” Gov. Daniel McKee said in a statement.
The agency has kept the Kennedy Plaza bathrooms closed to the general public, citing the need to enforce a federal mask mandate and to provide bus drivers with their own facilities where they didn't have to wait in line and in turn could keep buses running on schedule.
RIPTA chief Scott Avedisian said the issue has been resolved.
The city agreed on a plan that will accommodate the public need for the facilities while also making provisions for drivers by retrofitting restrooms at the nearby public skating rink for them.
“We are happy to be moving forward on this issue,” Avedisian said, “and we appreciate the steps the city is taking."
COLLEGE STUDENT VACCINATIONS
Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island both announced Wednesday that coronavirus vaccinations will be required for students taking on-campus classes next fall.
“Given the overwhelming success shown by the COVID-19 vaccinations to stop the spread of the virus, Rhode Island College will be mandating that all students are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to the opening of the Fall 2021 semester," the school posted on its website. “We are strongly encouraging all faculty and staff members to do the same."
CCRI, which has multiple campuses, is also strongly encouraging employees to receive their shots.
Both schools are hosting vaccination clinics.
Exemptions for medical and religious reasons will be considered, the schools said.
The University of Rhode Island has already mandated student vaccinations, meaning all three state colleges have now done so. Most private schools have also done so.
DOOR-TO-DOOR VACCINE OUTREACH
Gov. Daniel McKee joined Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and health officials for a door-to-door vaccine outreach effort Wednesday in a city with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the state.
Woonsocket has Rhode Island's lowest percentage of residents fully vaccinated at 41% and partially vaccinated at 47%, and has among the highest COVID-19-related death rates, hospitalization rates, and cases per 100,000 population, according to state Department of Health data.
In contrast, more than 615,000 people, or about 58% of the state's population at large has been fully vaccinated.
“We know how important accessibility and convenience are ... for many people when it comes to getting their shot," the Democratic governor said at a news conference outside the Woonsocket Housing Authority.
The state is particularly worried about the fast-spreading delta variant, he said.
“Please, if you haven't already, get a vaccine today," he said.
Wednesday’s effort focused on residents of the Morin Heights and Veterans Memorial housing complexes.
The city's residents live in closely packed neighborhoods in multi-generational households, Baldelli-Hunt said, explaining high transmission rates.
Shots are free and no insurance is required, she said.