18 more deaths reported Saturday; COVID-19 hospitalizations fall in RI

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Health on Saturday announced 18 more people have died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 597 in Rhode Island.

The Health Department also announced 233 people are currently hospitalized — a slight decline from a day earlier. The hospitalizations included 51 people in intensive care, with 34 on ventilators.

Another 203 people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to 13,952 since March 1, according to the Health Department. In addition to the newly reported positive tests, 2,777 people tested negative for the disease, resulting in a daily positivity rate of nearly 7%.

The all-time positivity rate is 10.7%.

The new data come a day after Gov. Gina Raimondo laid out the groundwork for Phase 2 of her reopening plan, which is slated to begin June 1 barring a spike in hospitalizations and spread of the disease.

The governor announced a litany of businesses, including gyms, hairdressers and in-door dining establishments, would be allowed to reopen on that day with capacity restrictions and new cleaning requirements. Gathering sizes would triple to a maximum of 15 people.

But the governor underscored that Rhode Islanders should not jump the gun and break the current social-distancing mandates — including a five-person limit on gathering sizes — during Memorial Day weekend.

While many spots will remain shuttered this weekend, East Matunuck and Scarborough beaches are expected to reopen with limited parking and social distancing requirements on Memorial Day. State parks are also open with restrictions.

Other state beaches will remain closed until at least June 1.

List: What’s open right now in Rhode Island, Massachusetts »

Despite a demand from President Donald Trump that governors reopen places of worship this weekend, Raimondo and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence are sticking with a previously announced plan that religious services will not start again until next weekend.

“We’re going to stick with what we have,” Raimondo said when asked about the president’s comments, adding that many faith institutions wouldn’t be able to reopen safely on such short notice anyway.

“That would be reckless,” Raimondo said. “It’s Friday — they’re not ready.”

The people announced dead on Saturday ranged in age between 50 and 100 years old, according to state data. Throughout the public health crisis in Rhode Island, people who have died with the disease are typically older in age, with the largest group of deaths including people between the ages of 70 and 100 years old.

Hospitalizations, however, are typically younger individuals, with people from their 50s to their 80s making up the largest group of people who have needed treatment at a hospital. Cases, meanwhile, are spread out almost evenly among people aged from 20 to 60 years old.

Raimondo, who doesn’t have any regularly scheduled news briefings this weekend, is expected to hold a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday at the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter.

The state’s COVID-19 news briefings will begin again on Tuesday.

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