Key takeaways from today’s RI COVID-19 briefing
- 7 more dead, 87 total; 278 new cases
- 229 now hospitalized, with 54 in ICU
- Meetings continue to reopen economy
- No self-quarantine for cross-border groceries
- New options for food delivery, shelter
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday that seven more Rhode Islanders have died due to COVID-19, all but one of them a nursing home resident, while insisting she is spending much of her time exploring ways to safely reopen the economy.
There are 229 Rhode Islanders in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, according to the R.I. Health Department, up from 213 on Tuesday. Of those patients, 54 are in the ICU and 44 are on ventilators.
Another 278 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the last day.
Of the seven newly announced fatalities, four of the dead were in their 80s, two were in their 90s, and one was in their 100s. R.I. Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said they are still finding it challenging to keep people safe who live in congregate settings.
Among the hardest-hit nursing homes, Golden Crest Nursing Centre in North Providence has now seen 23 deaths, Oak Hill in Pawtucket has had 17, Orchard View Manor in East Providence has had 10, and Oakland Grove in Woonsocket has had four.
There have been 66 total deaths at nursing homes, more than 75% of the total deaths from the virus in Rhode Island.
The latest data means 87 people have died and 3,529 people have tested positive in Rhode Island since the state reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 1. All the deaths are being described as “COVID-19-associated” by the Health Department.
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“We are not in a downward slope — that I can assure you,” Raimondo said, though she expressed optimism that Rhode Island has successfully reduced how bad the outbreak will be at its peak. She said she plans to share additional data related to the state’s forecasts and modeling on Thursday.
The governor began her daily coronavirus briefing by emphasizing the amount of time she is spending trying to figure out how to reopen the economy. She and other northeast state governors have formed working group to coordinate their plans.
“I have spent the last 24 hours, meeting after meeting, focused nearly exclusively on how do we safely get folks back to work, child care centers open, et cetera,” Raimondo said. “I don’t have an answer, and it’s not going to happen in a week or two weeks. But I want you to know I have my eye on that prize, and making sure we can do it safely.”
“I know this is getting harder, not easier,” she added. “But we can do it. We can do it. And if we hang tough together, we’ll all be safer and better for it.”
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Raimondo couched a statement she made Tuesday regarding whether local hospitals currently have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE, acknowledging the frustrations of many medical personnel who are being forced to use gear such as masks longer than usual. She said efforts to procure more equipment continue.
“It is continually a global, daily fight,” Raimondo said. A sanitization system is being procured that will be able to sanitize tens of thousands of masks at a time, she said.
A fast-track testing system for nursing home employees is being created at the CVS Health testing site at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, according to the governor. A couple hundred spots a day will be reserved for front-line workers in congregate settings with no need for an appointment.
In addition, the governor clarified previous suggestions that a person who lives near the Massachusetts border and, for example, goes to Seekonk to buy groceries does not fall under the order to self-quarantine for 14 days due to cross-state travel. But she emphasized that all residents remain under a stay-at-home order until May 8 other than necessities.
“After you do your grocery shopping, go home,” she said, adding that “the less you leave your house, the safer we’ll all be.”
“Just use some good judgment,” she added.
As for the new executive order requiring most employees to cover their faces at work starting Saturday, Alexander-Scott said, “We are not talking about medical masks like N95 or surgical masks … we are talking about cloth.”
Customers should not be turned away for not wearing cloth faced covering, though individuals should be wearing them when out in public, Raimondo said.
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About 6,000 residents are currently in self-quarantine, meaning they are not even allowed to leave the house for essentials such as groceries. Raimondo said the state and its partners are now able to deliver tens of thousands of meals a day to help those people. The University of Rhode Island’s dining services staff is starting a partnership with senior centers to deliver dinners, she said.
“I know we’re not meeting demand, so we’re going to do more,” the governor said. The state is exploring potential partnerships with Uber and Lyft to increase delivery services.
The state has also contracted with the Wyndham Hotel in Warwick to reserve more than 200 beds for people who are homeless or otherwise don’t have a safe place to stay, and officials said about 50 people have already used the location. The use of empty college dorms is also being explored.
A new website, RIHavens.com, has been created to help connect individuals in need of a safe space to quarantine with reduced-price hotel rooms. Raimondo said the state is also exploring a way to offer some hotel rooms for free.
Looking ahead, Raimondo said it remains unclear how access to beaches and parks will work this summer. “I would like to say that we will be able to be using our parks and beaches somehow this summer, I’ll leave it at that,” she said.
However, the governor warned there would definitely be some restrictions in place this summer, like to control crowd sizes.
The governor highlighted Covid Connectors, a project that allows people to donate smartphones and tablets to hospitals in order to help patients connect with family members who aren’t allowed to visit. She said Amazon has agreed to donate 540 tablets to the effort.