Key takeaways from Monday’s briefing:

  • 27 new deaths since Friday
  • Significant decline in hospitalizations
  • Raimondo launches “early warning system”
  • Asymptomatic workers of child-care centers, close-contact businesses can get tested
  • Attendees of large protests also urged to get tested

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As Rhode Islanders enter into the second week of Phase 2 in Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo on Monday announced the state will expand COVID-19 testing to people who are not experiencing symptoms.

Raimondo touted how well the state has done in terms of testing so far, saying Rhode Island has the highest testing rate per capita of any state in the country. She said roughly 15% of the population has been tested, compared to the national average of about 5.5%.

As for the public health data, Raimondo said “the numbers are heading in the right direction.”

After not releasing new COVID-19 data over the weekend, the R.I. Department of Health reported Monday that 799 Rhode Islanders have now died after contracting the virus, an increase of 27 since Friday. The department said another 213 people have tested positive.

As of midday Monday, the number of hospitalizations fell to 146, down from 182 on Friday, according to the Health Department. Of those patients, 28 are in intensive care, including 20 on ventilators.

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Raimondo said it’s her goal “to open the economy once,” which will be possible if the health metrics continue to trend downward. To accomplish that goal, the state will have to track the virus more closely, Raimondo added, saying that was the impetus for setting a new goal of testing 900 asymptomatic people per day.

While the state has been and will continue to test all first responders and those in congregate care settings, the so-called “early warning system” will be expanded to include employees of child care centers and close-contact businesses such as hair salons, barbershops, and gyms.

Those people, even if they don’t feel sick, are encouraged to visit and schedule an appointment to get tested at one of the National Guard sites.

You can also call (401) 222-8022 to schedule an appointment. The tests are free.

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While acknowledging that the tests are more accurate for symptomatic patients, Raimondo said they’re still somewhat accurate and “some information is better than no information.”

“Every time we can find a positive person and put them into isolation, we’ve done a good thing and reduced the spread,” she added.

Raimondo and Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott also recommended that people who attended a large protest recently get tested as well. In addition, those people are urged to monitor for symptoms and be thoughtful about who they come into contact with over the next two weeks.

The testing of asymptomatic people will gradually expand to workers in other industries, according to Raimondo.

She said the early detection system will not only help the state gather data, but also give people confidence that it’s safe to go get a haircut or work out at the gym.

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Raimondo also said she’ll have further guidance on weddings and other social gatherings later this week or early next week.

Starting this week, the governor will go from giving daily briefings to only having three per week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday, all at 1 p.m.