66 total COVID-19 cases in RI; Gov urges people to stay home

Coronavirus

Key takeaways from Saturday’s Rhode Island coronavirus briefing:

  • 12 new cases for a total of 66 in R.I.
  • Gov. Raimondo has no plans to issue a shelter-in-place
  • No gatherings of 10 people or more; police will enforce
  • Medical supply donations needed

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said Saturday there were 12 new positive cases of COVID-19 overnight, for a new total of 66.

Three of the new patients are hospitalized, Alexander-Scott said, and the new cases range in age from their 20s to 70s and include eight men and four women. She said the total number people hospitalized is “less than five,” and all are in stable condition. The rest of the patients are recovering at home.

Gov. Raimondo repeatedly said she had no plans to institute a lockdown or shelter-in-place order, but said she would likely continue to institute measures to contain the spread.

“Please ignore the rumors that I’m going to institute some sort of a radical lockdown,” Raimondo said. “The social distancing directives that I have already ordered are radical, and are taking an enormous toll on the economy.”

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But she urged Rhode Islanders to stay home this weekend and avoid gathering, including at churches, synagogues and mosques. But she said it was okay to go outside and take a walk, while staying distant from other people.

“This week could be the most important week that we face in keeping the lid on this virus,” Raimondo said. “When the genie’s out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in.”

R.I. State Police Col. James Manni said troopers on patrol are being asked to disperse any gatherings of 10 people or more that they witness. The troopers will “politely ask you to please disperse,” Raimondo added.

On Friday night, Raimondo signed two executive orders: one allowing restaurants to include beer and wine with takeout orders, and another to give police departments 30 days — instead of seven — to conduct background checks on people buying guns.

The latter executive order came amid a call from the R.I. Police Chiefs’ Association, which said a run on firearms had overwhelmed police departments, who were concerned that people would be sold guns before the background checks were complete.

According to a letter from Police Chiefs’ Association executive director Sid Wordell, the Warwick Police Department normally processes about 28 applications per day. But in just three days of gun sales in the past week, the department received 404 applications.

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Asked if the state was curtailing the ability for people to protect themselves, Manni said police departments would not always need the full 30 days, and would still process the background checks as quickly as possible.

The takeout beer and wine order was celebrated by the hospitality industry Friday night, as restaurants are struggling to keep up revenue with their dining rooms closed. Under the new order, restaurants can sell up to two bottles of wine and 144 ounces of beer, in original packaging, with takeout orders.

Amid a shortage of crucial medical supplies and personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns, Alexander-Scott asked people who have medical supplies to donate to visit this link.

She also warned people who vape or smoke that they may be at increased risk for the disease.

While Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza ordered addition businesses in the city to close on Saturday including hair and nail salons, Raimondo said she was considering it but not yet ordering those businesses to close.

Asked again if she would consider the request from the Board of Elections to move the presidential primary to June, Raimondo said she was still considering the request but has not yet made a decision.

“I’ll talk to them and I’ll consult other states,” Raimondo said.

Schools are starting remote learning on Monday for a period of two weeks, after which the state plans to reevaluate the situation.

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