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It’s no secret that the past year has not been a kind one to small businesses, with the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdowns, restrictions and limits leaving many scrambling to survive, something which many businesses sadly have not.

In such trying times, it’s good to have an ally to help navigate the troubled waters, and that’s exactly what the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director Kristin Urbach have sought to be to the business community of North Kingstown, through applying for and receiving several grants to adapt to new challenges and keep places in business, as well as turning to virtual meeting spaces to allow for business owners and leaders to network with each other while still practicing social distancing.

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Mystery writer Claremary Sweeney of South Kingstown almost created her own mystery around the disappearance of her in-progress novel, whose pages she just couldn’t revisit for a long while.

Like everyone else, the COVID-19 virus upended her life. But, more importantly, her husband of 20 years died suddenly. Charley Sweeney had just received an “all clear” for remission for prostate cancer when he died last March of a heart attack, she said.

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Music-makers — the dreamers of dreams — at area high schools didn’t let COVID-19 become a nightmare taking away their passions and desires when state education officials offered no help to salvage their programs.

An intrepid group of administrators, teachers and students instead mirrored British poet Arthur W.E. O’Shaughnessy’s words about these dreamers wandering by lone sea breakers, yet being the movers and the shakers from his poem “We Are the Music-Makers.” 

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COVID-19 vaccinations for those 75 years and older are continuing in South County at the South Road Elementary School, but hampered by having fewer doses than needed for this population of residents.

For instance, North Kingstown has 3,000 residents in this category. It received only 130 doses to cover vaccinations given last Sunday and a few days later on Wednesday for this group, said Town Manager Ralph Mollis. 

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After an extended holiday break to allow for quarantine time, University of Rhode Island Students resumed in-person classes this week with more COVID testing and safeguards in place.

On Wednesday, the university’s COVID-19 tracker showed a 2.64% positive COVID-19 test rate over the past seven days. URI is testing between 600 and 1,000 people daily.

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Food delivery is a small part of Roy Ring’s business at North Kingstown’s Carriage Inn, he says, yet it’s also a large part of his strategy to keep his restaurant COVID-19 competitive against pandemic poachers looking to steal business.  

“Every time you put your food in someone else’s mouth, you are building your brand,” said Ring, restaurant owner, noting it costs him nearly 26% per order when using popular delivery service DoorDash.

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With the winter set in and COVID preventing some travel plans to warmer climates, many find themselves craving a tropical getaway. Now, thanks to a new cookbook by Narragansett resident Pamela Child, locals can take their taste buds to the Florida Keys without ever leaving South County.

“Keys Eats” features over 60 recipes from some of the top restaurants of the Keys featuring some of the best of “Floribbean” cuisine, including seafood staples such as conch, tuna and shrimp, as well as the classic Key Lime Pie and rum cakes to make everything from the traditional to the experimental.

“You have a lot of things that have jalepeños, mangos and tropical fruits,” Childs said. “It’s just kind of a little twist on some regular dishes.”

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The national debate over getting the COVID-19 vaccine has some South County emergency responders waiting to roll up their sleeves to get inoculated.

A survey by The Independent this week showed that both South Kingstown and North Kingstown police departments had about 50% of sworn personnel take up the offer to be vaccinated, while about 75% of eligible Narragansett officers got the shot.

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When it’s winter in South County, the restaurant business slows down, yet in this new year COVID-19 fears and restrictions continue their chokehold that make a declining profit situation worse.

To help these owners boost revenues, the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce plans to reward frequent diners with chances to win up to $1,000 in gift certificates for various local businesses.

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As Gov. Gina Raimondo sets her sights on a new job as President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Commerce, Lt. Gov. Daniel J. McKee is tapping his experience as a local mayor and a native son of a Northern Rhode Island community to face his own pending promotion as Raimondo’s replacement.

McKee on Friday pointed to his past transitions both as an incumbent and outgoing mayor of Cumberland as helping him in his latest move into a new chief executive role.