Key takeaways from Wednesday’s RI COVID-19 briefing:

  • 10 more dead; total now 181
  • 365 new cases as testing expands
  • Raimondo: RI ‘hovering at a plateau’
  • Parks, beaches could open in May
  • More guidance on reopening next week

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Another 10 Rhode Islanders have died after contracting COVID-19, while an additional 365 residents have tested positive for the disease, the R.I. Health Department announced Wednesday.

The newly announced fatalities bring Rhode Island’s coronavirus death toll to 181 since March 19. (The first death wasn’t reported until nine days later.) The majority of people who have succumbed have been nursing home residents, including eight of the 10 reported Wednesday. The 10 deceased included two in their 60s, one in their 70s, four in their 80s, two in their 90s and one in their 100s.

According to the Health Department, there were 270 Rhode Islanders in the hospital with COVID-19 as of midday Wednesday, barely changed from Tuesday. Of those patients, 71 are in the ICU and 44 are on ventilators, also little changed.

It marks the third straight day current hospitalizations have held roughly steady, an encouraging sign that Rhode Island has had success in “flattening the curve” of coronavirus to avoid overwhelming the hospitals.

Gov. Gina Raimondo said the state is currently “hovering at a plateau.”

“This is good news, and it’s a good news day because we are clearly — if you look at hospitals and ICU hospitalizations — everything’s very stable,” Raimondo said at her daily coronavirus briefing. “Although we haven’t yet started to decline, and we may still not be quite at our peak, this is good news that we are seeing.”

More than half of the 585 Rhode Islanders who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the crisis began have now been discharged.

Roughly 5,800 Rhode Islanders have tested positive for coronavirus over the last two months. The state now has one of the highest per-capita testing rates in the country, yet so far has not seen its positivity rate — the share of all tests that come back positive — decline significantly.

Testing continues to expand, as the governor continues to say more needs to be done to bring testing to congregate care facilities, inner-city and minority communities.

Raimondo said the new walk-up site in Providence, which opened Tuesday, can test about 50 people a day. Another walk-up set will be opening on the old Memorial Hospital campus in Pawtucket, operated with Care New England, with appointments available by calling 401-CARE-NOW.

The state also rolled out a new symptom tracker at the website, partnering with the company Diagnostic Robotics and available in English, Spanish and Portuguese. It will help residents make decisions about when to seek care, as well as testing, quarantine and isolation.

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In honor of Earth Day, Raimondo announced she has directed state officials to come up with a plan to reopen Rhode Island’s parks and beaches as part of the first phase of reopening, expected to begin sometime after her current stay-at-home order expires May 8.

“We’ll be reopening them, like everything else, in a staged fashion, slowly, with new restrictions, incrementally, leading up to an eventual complete reopening,” she said.

“I’m not reopening parks and beaches now, I’m not reopening parks and beaches this weekend,” she added. “Not there yet, but hope is on the horizon.”

The governor warned residents ages 60 and older, as well as those with underlying health conditions, that the gradual reopening of the economy will be slower for them because they are at higher risk. That could include working from home for a longer period of time.

“Start to come to terms now with the fact that your re-entry is going to be a bit different, a bit slower, and you will continue to have a different set of regulations designed to keep you healthy and safe and alive and well,” she said.

More specific guidelines around reopening the economy are slated to come next week, though she warned that “the brutal reality” is cases will rise once that process begins.

Rhode Island is getting its first serology tests this week to determine if coronavirus is present in somebody’s blood, potentially giving them immunity. She said the tests have to go through a validation process before they can be used.

Asked about the state budget outlook, Raimondo said, “Our state, every state, our revenues have absolutely fallen off a cliff. We don’t yet have a great estimate on how bad it will be.” She said she’s talked to Twin River as well as Nevada’s governor about how casinos could reopen, but said she will not do so until it’s safe.

Providence College is the latest higher education institution to offer support for Rhode Island’s response, transforming its kitchen to make meals for the temporary field hospital in Cranston, according to the governor’s office.

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