Possible virus exposure prompts closure of state office

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island Department of Human Services has temporarily closed its Pawtucket office after dozens of employees came into contact with a colleague who tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said.

The office has been closed to the public since March 17, but staff continued to work handling applications for public assistance.

Based on discussions with the Rhode Island Department of Health, the agency believes much of the staff at the site may need to quarantine due to potential exposure to COVID-19, agency spokeswoman Alisha Pina said in a statement.

About two-thirds of the roughly 100 workers assigned to the office are affected.

The office will receive a “deep clean” per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, she said.

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VENTILATOR PROJECT

The University of Rhode Island’s project to refurbish unused sleep apnea machines for use by COVID-19 patients is expected to be fully operational on Friday, a university spokeswoman said.

The project is a partnership involving the university, the Rhode Island Commerce Corp., the state Department of Health, fire stations and other partners.

The project has been collecting donations of CPAP and BiPAP machines not currently being used. They are being refurbished by a volunteer group of engineers, designers, technicians and doctors.

They will be distributed as needed and can be used as supplementary respiratory equipment, giving doctors the flexibility to free up time on hospital ventilators.

The work is being done under the oversight of Tao Wei, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the university.

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