PROVIDENCE (AP) — Rhode Island will distribute thousands of masks and disinfectant products to businesses as the state gradually reopens its economy, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday.

Starting next week, businesses with 50 or fewer employees will be able to qualify for the free supplies so long as they’ve completed a plan for how it plans to prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace, the Democrat said.

That includes retailers, which reopened last weekend, and restaurants, which will be allowed to start offering outdoor dining with strict restrictions on Monday.

The governor says the state is prepared to hand out around 500,000 masks and disinfectant products.

Raimondo said the state also has 500 laptops available to give out to small businesses with fewer than 25 workers as well as another 500 laptops to help with distance learning efforts. The computers were donated by Microsoft, she said.

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TOURIST TESTING?

Tourists arriving in Rhode Island this summer may be tested for the coronavirus, Raimondo said Wednesday.

The governor said she's considering imposing the requirement to allow the state, which depends heavily on tourism, to enjoy some of the traditional summer boost from visitors.

Raimondo also added that she doesn’t foresee continuing the 14-day self- quarantine for anyone arriving from out-of-state through the summer.

“The honest answer is that we don’t yet have a summer policy,” she said.

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HOSPITALIZATIONS DECLINE

The number of people in Rhode Island hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to decline, and was down to 269, according to the latest number released by the state Department of Health on Wednesday.

The state also reported 221 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 new deaths, bringing the totals to more than 11,800 positive cases and 462 fatalities.

Nearly 98,000 people in the state have been tested.

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STUDY ABROAD CANCELLED

Brown University has canceled all of its study abroad programs for the upcoming fall semester in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced Wednesday.

The university’s Office of International Programs said it remains optimistic about its ability to offer study abroad programs in the spring 2021 semester.

The Providence-based school is working on a plan to bring students back to campus this fall and expects to announce a decision in July.

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BOY SCOUT CAMP

A century-old Boy Scout camp in Rhode Island won't open this summer because of the pandemic.

The BSA's Narragansett Council announced on its Facebook page Tuesday that it's making plans for virtual camps and outdoor activities that Scouts can do at home or in small groups rather than open the 1,800-acre Camp Yawgoog in Hopkinton.

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SHELLFISH SALES

A Rhode Island lawmaker is asking the state to allow shellfishers to sell their catch directly to the public during the pandemic, as lobster harvesters are allowed to do.

State Rep. Joseph McNamara, in a letter to the director of the state Department of Environmental Management on Wednesday, said allowing direct sales would be a service to the community at a time when people are looking for sustainable, nutritious foods.

The Democrat also said the shellfish industry is facing a drop in demand during what is traditionally its busiest time of the year.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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