Coronavirus concerns prompt changes at Rhode Island State House


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Growing fears of the coronavirus could have an impact on House and Senate committee hearings at the Rhode Island State House.

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio took to Twitter on Monday to let the public know they can submit written testimony on any piece of legislation, in place of testifying in public.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that avoiding large gatherings is a way to prevent and limit the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Ruggerio says those who don’t want to testify in person should send an email to and their comments would then be provided to committee members and placed on public record.

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

“We shouldn’t panic, there is no widespread community transmission. I want every tool at my disposal in order to protect Rhode Island,” Raimondo said.

Coronavirus: Latest Headlines, Map, Resources » | Track the number of cases in RI »

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) says older adults are twice as likely to experience serious illness from COVID-19 and the department continues to promote the CDC’s guidelines.

Last week, 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.

“People who are older than 60 years of age should avoid close contact with people who are sick, should be sure that they have over the counter medicines and medical supplies available to them to treat fever and other symptoms,” Alexander-Scott said. “Pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms.”

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.

It has been the continued message from RIDOH, as well as Raimondo, to stay home if you are feeling sick.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

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

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

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

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