PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s now been a week since the first presumptive positive cases of the novel coronavirus popped up in Rhode Island and while officials say the risk to the average resident remains low, steps are being taken to prevent or limit its spread.

Late Monday afternoon, Gov. Gina Raimondo declared a state of emergency, saying it provides more tools to address the situation.

“I felt it was prudent to declare a state of emergency so number one, we can access the National Guard quickly if and as necessary, and number two, so that we are in the very best position to get federal aid that may be or become available,” she said. “We shouldn’t panic, there is no widespread community transmission. I want every tool at my disposal in order to protect Rhode Island.”

As of Monday evening, 62 people have been tested for the virus in Rhode Island: three came up positive, 53 were negative and six are still awaiting results, according to the health department. In addition, 290 people are supposed to be self-quarantining due to having direct contact with a COVID-19 patient.

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Raimondo also announced the state’s working to make it easier for sick or quarantined Rhode Islanders to access unemployment and temporary disability benefits.

The DLT launched a dedicated hotline to answer questions about paid sick time. The hotline will be staffed on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can be reached at (401) 462-2020 or

On Friday, nursing homes were directed to limit their hours of visitation. Raimondo and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the state’s health director, reiterated this Monday, saying all visitors will undergo a screening process.

“Early data shows that older adults are twice as likely to experience serious illness from COVID-19, and nursing home residents may be especially vulnerable,” Dr. Alexander-Scott said. “It is absolutely critical that people not enter nursing homes if they are sick or who have recently traveled to a place with widespread community COVID-19 transmission.”

Anyone with questions regarding the virus can call the R.I. Department of Health at (401) 222-8022 or visit the department’s website.

Top hospital group Lifespan put out a notice Monday that patient visitation has been suspended at all of its hospitals, effective immediately. No visitors will be allowed in the adult units at Lifespan facilities, which include Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam.

Patients arriving at the ER will be limited to one accompanying adult, whose duration of stay will be minimized, according to Lifespan, while Bradley and Hasbro Children’s Hospitals will have modified policies to allow for the accompaniment of one parent. Maternity services at Newport Hospital will allow for one birthing partner.

“We have decided after great deliberation to take this step in these highly unusual circumstances to protect our patients and our workforce,” Lifespan President and CEO Dr. Timothy Babineau said in a statement. “We understand this is a great hardship to both patients and families, but we know that older and sicker people are most vulnerable to this novel coronavirus, and after careful evaluation of the evolving risks of transmission, we felt it was the most prudent thing to do.”

Earlier on Monday, the Roger Williams University Emergency Response Team sent a notice to the campus community that 15 students and one faculty member have been asked to self-quarantine for two weeks out of an abundance of caution. The group attended a Conservative Political Action Conference late last month which has since been connected to a case of coronavirus.

The university said none of the RWU attendees have exhibited symptoms and there’s no concern of exposure on campus, stressing that there’s no need for those who’ve had contact with the attendees to quarantine.

The campus has undergone rigorous cleaning and sanitizing over the past six weeks, according to the university, and classes will resume as normal after spring break. Anyone with questions is asked to call RWU Health Services at (401) 254-3156.

In the meantime, three Brown University students are currently in isolation as they’re tested for the virus, according to the university.

Brown has canceled all on- and off-campus events involving 100 people or more, excluding classes. The university said the 20th Casey Shearer Memorial Lecture featuring President Bill Clinton originally scheduled for Thursday, March 19, will instead be held sometime in the fall.

Both Brown and the University of Rhode Island have suspended all international travel. Brown is also requiring anyone returning to the U.S. from affected areas to self-isolate away from campus for 14 symptom-free days.

All three universities emphasized there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus at their campuses.

The Smithfield Avenue Nursery School in Pawtucket remains closed after an employee tested positive for the virus. The case is currently considered “presumptive,” since the results have not yet been confirmed by the CDC.

St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket will also be closed for the remainder of the week. Two people who went on a school trip overseas displayed symptoms and tested positive for the virus upon their return.

The Diocese of Providence announced Monday that the 2020 Faith Formation Convocation scheduled for Saturday, March 14, has been canceled out of an abundance of caution. Anyone who purchased tickets will be refunded, the Diocese said. If the refund is not received within 30 days, call the Office of Faith Formation at (401) 278-4646.

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