Key takeaways from Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing:
- 18 more deaths, all at nursing homes
- Oak Hill Center designated as specialty nursing home
- RI model projects peak hospitalizations May 3
- Schools announcement coming next week
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island has set a new one-day record for deaths related to COVID-19, with the R.I. Health Department reporting Thursday that 18 more residents have died after becoming infected with the virus.
The new numbers bring the state’s death toll to 105. All of the 18 new deaths happened at nursing homes, according to Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
The director said the spike in deaths was in part due to results from tests taken days ago coming back positive for some people who already died. Nine people died in the past 24 hours, she added.
There were 309 new positive cases reported Thursday, and 245 people are currently in the hospital in Rhode Island.
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The devastation of nursing homes residents continues to mount. There have now been 84 total deaths at nursing homes, according to Alexander-Scott, which is 80% of total deaths in Rhode Island.
Alexander-Scott said the Oak Hill Center in Pawtucket is now designated as a “specialty nursing home” for COVID-19 patients.
That nursing home is now accepting patients who have been discharged from the hospital and are positive for COVID-19, so they can receive specialized rehabilitation care without infecting people at their regular homes or other nursing homes.
Patients with the virus in other nursing homes will not be moved from their existing home to Oak Hill, Alexander-Scott said. Nursing homes are separating patients who have COVID-19 from patients who do not have the virus.
The Oak Hill Center has now had 18 total deaths of residents with COVID-19. Golden Crest Nursing Centre in North Providence has had 24 deaths, Orchard View Manor in East Providence has had 20 deaths, and Oakland Grove Health Care Center in Woonsocket has had five deaths.
Alexander-Scott said she plans to announced additional aggressive measures surrounding nursing homes on Friday.
After weeks of declining to do so, Raimondo released some of Rhode Island’s modeling data at her 1 p.m. daily briefing, indicating the state’s “best-guess” is that hospitalizations will peak around May 3 if people appropriately follow social-distancing mandates.
According to that model, 2,250 hospital beds would be needed around May 3.
The modeling also included a “higher scenario,” which Raimondo said indicated what might happen if distancing was relaxed. That projection should the peak would come around April 27, with 4,300 hospital beds needed. In term of deaths, Raimondo said the model projects between 2,120 deaths and 4,015 deaths through October depending on how well the state does with its social distancing.
The governor did not provided a “best-case” scenario, as is typical with forecast modeling, but Raimondo said she could see the state doing better than the best-guess scenario.
“The peak is a few weeks away,” Raimondo said, emphasizing that the model is imprecise. “The biggest difference between the blue line and red line is the degree to which we obey the social distancing stay-at-home order.”
The state is currently setting up three makeshift hospitals in Providence, Cranston and North Kingstown, which help boost the state’s hospital beds to about 3,500, Raimondo said.
Raimondo announced a new website, employri.org, for workers looking for jobs. She said there is a shortage of employees for “critical infrastructure” work at grocery stores, pharmacies, and in health care.
“I need you to be brave,” Raimondo said. “If you have to go to work, go to work.”
Starting Saturday, many workers in Rhode Island will be required to wear face coverings such as cloth masks. Raimondo said Thursday that people should report to the R.I. Department of Business Regulation if an employer is not providing the face coverings — which is a mandate.
Raimondo said she would make an announcement about schools next week, including details about whether they might reopen this year.
“I am not ready to throw in the towel yet and say school’s out for the rest of the year,’ Raimondo said. “I’m just not there yet.”
Distance learning is currently scheduled to continue until the end of April.