2 deaths, 45 more cases in RI; new program aims to prevent eviction

Coronavirus

Key takeaways from Friday’s briefing:

  • 45 new cases, two more deaths
  • New program to curb evictions
  • Gov warns not to crowd at beaches
  • Crush COVID app 2.0 released

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Another 45 people have contracted COVID-19 in Rhode Island, according to new data released Friday by the R.I. Department of Health, and two more deaths have been confirmed.

There were a total of 94 positive test results returned in the past day, which includes both new cases and duplicates for people who have tested positive repeatedly. The Health Department started releasing those numbers earlier this week, in addition to the number of new cases.

The two newly confirmed deaths brings the death toll to 976 Rhode Islanders.

There are 61 people currently in the hospital with the virus, compared to 59 reported Thursday. There were three new hospital admissions and one discharge.

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Raimondo announced a new eviction diversion program on Friday, aimed at preventing evictions among people unable to pay their rent because of the pandemic.

The program, which is called Safe Harbor and will be administered through the United Way, will require both the tenant and landlord to agree to negotiate a new payment plan in order to avoid eviction. The state will assist the tenant in paying rent under the plan, using $7 million from the CARES Act. Money will also be available for tenants to have lawyers to help them in their eviction cases.

Tenants who are behind in their rent because of COVID-19 and in danger of eviction, or who have already received an eviction notice, can call 211 starting Monday to be connected to the program, Raimondo said.

Rhode Island courts began hearing eviction cases again in June, but started with cases filed prior to March 17, before the economy shut down and an eviction moratorium was put in place.

Landlords were able to start filing new evictions on June 1, and a court spokesperson said 500 evictions have been filed since then, including for non-payment of rent and other reasons. The number of evictions that have actually been executed was not available Friday.

Target 12: RI still struggling to provide rental assistance to families facing eviction »

Raimondo also issued a warning about overcrowding at beaches, noting that Misquamicut State Beach was particularly crowded on Thursday, when it was very hot and humid.

She said people were seen crowding on the beach, especially at high tide, and piling in large groups into cars. She urged people to go to the beach in small groups and remain distanced from other groups.

Masks are also required at concession stands, bathrooms and anywhere else where people gather.

“A lot of people have asked me, ‘would you ever close the beaches?’ The answer is of course I would, but I don’t want to,” Raimondo said. “So let’s just try harder to follow the rules.”

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On the topic of following the rules, Raimondo released new projections by the state on what hospitalizations might look like if people get lax about social distancing and wearing masks.

The blue line on the chart released by the state represents continued decline, if people keep groups small and continue wearing masks.

“I expect the blue line,” Raimondo said. “However, if we start to relax and don’t wear masks, bunch up up at the beach, crowd at bars, take a risk and go to work when we’re sick, then our rate of spread will increase,” which is represented by the yellow line.

She said she would likely reimpose restrictions if there’s a resurgence of hospitalizations.

“Let’s stick to the blue line,” she urged.

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Rhode Island’s new projected hospitalizations. The blue line represents the expected trend with current precautions.

Raimondo and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott also addressed the state’s testing numbers, after Target 12 reported that 16% of the state’s population has been tested rather than the 25% Raimondo had recently touted.

Target 12: New data show fewer Rhode Islanders tested for COVID-19 than Raimondo touted »

The state is doing surveillance testing that tests people more than once — such as those in nursing homes — leading the number of tests conducted to be much higher than the number of people being tested. Alexander-Scott argued the total tests represent the “equivalent” of testing a certain proportion of the state.

“In Rhode Island, we are sticking to our strategy because it is working,” Alexander-Scott said.

Raimondo noted that states are not separating out the duplicate tests, leading to an “apples and oranges” comparison with Rhode Island.

“Most states only report numbers of tests,” Raimondo said. “We report number of tests and number of people. … We are still nation-leading.”

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Raimondo said version 2.0 of the Crush COVID RI app would be released Friday, and would include new features to help with contact tracing and testing.

Namely, the location diary feature will now allow people to write notes connected to each address, such as the name of the restaurant or friend’s house you visited and who you were with.

The prior version of the app only tracked locations, requiring the user to keep a separate journal of their contacts in case they get the virus.

The new version of the app will also include a map of the nearest testing sites, according to Raimondo.

Asked whether the much-lamented battery-draining problem with the location diary was fixed, Chief of IT Chirag Patel said the battery issue “has been resolved as much as technically possible.”

“Like any map app … there will be some battery drain,” Patel said. “Unlike Waze or Google Maps, you don’t need to keep looking at this location diary continuously.” He said tips were being added to the app to help save battery, such as not to constantly look at the app to see if the location function is working.

“Try it again,” Patel urged people who had turned the feature off.

Version 2.0 will also be offered in Portuguese, in addition to English and Spanish.

Coronavirus: Coverage and Resources

Find a Testing Site Near You | School Updates| What’s Open in RI & Mass. | Latest Headlines | En Español: 12 Informa | COVID-19 Tracking: Maps, Charts, Interactive Data | Projection Models | CDC Resources | RI Health Department | MA Health Department

RI Coronavirus Hotline: (401) 222-8022 | Work-Related Questions: (401) 462-2020 | Mental Health Assistance: (401) 414-5465

Coronavirus: Latest Headlines

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