24 new COVID-19 deaths reported in Rhode Island; highest one-day total

Coronavirus

Key takeaways from Sunday’s coronavirus briefing:

  • 24 new deaths reported; highest one-day total
  • Sharp drop in positive case count
  • Providence tops 3,000 cases
  • New interstate collaboration for PPE purchases
  • Oakland Grove becomes specialty COVID-19 nursing home

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Another 24 Rhode Islanders have died with COVID-19, according to new data released by the R.I. Department of Health on Sunday, for a total of 320 deaths.

The 24 deaths are the highest one-day death toll reported since the pandemic began. Dr. James McDonald, the Health Department’s medical director, said 18 of the people who died were nursing home residents.

“It’s obviously a sad day,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said at her daily news briefing. “I just wanted all of us to take a minute to remember the lives lost.”

The 24 people who died ranged in age from their 30s to their 90s.

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McDonald said a second nursing home — Oakland Grove in Woonsocket — would become a specialty nursing home for COVID-19 patients who are released from the hospital. The patients would be in a separate unit in the nursing home from patients who do not have COVID-19.

The Oak Hill Center in Pawtucket was the first nursing home to be designated as a COVID-19 specialty home in April. McDonald says both nursing homes still have plenty of capacity to take in new patients.

More than 230 nursing home patients have died so far, according to McDonald.

Hospitalizations remain relatively steady, with 330 people reported to be hospitalized Sunday, compared to 333 on Saturday.

There were 188 new positive test results returned in the past day, according to the department, out of 1,999 tests conducted.

While the drop was sharp from Saturday’s 327 new positive cases, Dr. McDonald said he doesn’t read too much into single-day drops, especially with many fewer tests conducted in the past day than usual. But he noted that the positivity rate for the latest round of testing was below 10%, lower than prior days.

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Raimondo announced Sunday a new collaboration between Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware to purchase personal protective equipment and medical supplies such as masks, gowns and ventilators.

“We spend hours a day every day … scouring the world to try to secure PPE,” Raimondo said. “We need a steady supply chain.”

She said the goal was to stop the states from bidding against each other and driving the prices up, and instead move to bulk purchasing for all the states.

With the good weather this weekend, Raimondo encouraged people to spend some time outside but not to congregate, and reminded people to keep a contact-tracing notebook.

“It’ll take you 30 seconds and it could save a life,” Raimondo said.

Asked if talking a walk outside requires a mask, Dr. McDonald said people should have a mask with them, but they don’t necessarily need to wear it while walking if no one else is around.

While her stay-at-home order is set to expire by next weekend, Raimondo said she is still aiming to lift it but could change her mind this week and extend the order depending on the data. She also urged people to start making plans for Mother’s Day that don’t involve visits in person.

She said even with the stay-at-home order potentially lifted next weekend, people still cannot visit their mothers in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and cannot have large family gatherings to celebrate the day.

“It’s a special day, we all cherish our mothers,” Raimondo said. “Start thinking now about how we can love and honor our mothers … without actually seeing them. Because it’s very possible you’re not going to be able to see your mom.”

Keeping with the family theme, McDonald brought to Sunday’s briefing a toothpaste tube from his kids’ bathroom, aiming to demonstrate a household object that is touched by multiple people. He said to reduce the risk, he bought separate tubes of toothpaste for each child.

Raimondo’s daily briefing on Monday will be held two hours later than usual, at 3 p.m. She said she plans to release more information this week about reopening the state’s economy.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

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