Key takeaways from Friday’s RI COVID-19 briefing
- 38 new positive cases, total stands at 203
- Multiple orders extended, including ban on all dine-in food services
- National Guard to go door-to-door looking for NY travelers
- 28 people hospitalized; 11 in ICU
- New SNAP benefits
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo on Friday announced there are 38 new people who tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to 203 known cases in Rhode Island.
The governor also announced extensions to multiple bans she’s ordered throughout the month, including a shutdown on all dine-in food services that now must remain closed until April 13.
Other extensions include:
- A ban on all gatherings of 10 people (April 13)
- A ban on all recreational, entertainment and close-contact businesses, including barber shops and beauty salons (April 13)
- The order that people must quarantine for 14 days if coming to Rhode Island from domestic and international (April 25)
- Order suspended parts of the Open Meetings Act (May 8)
- Order expanded access to telehealth medicine (May 8)
- Order that gun permit background checks can take up to 30 days (May 8)
Raimondo said she expects to make an announcement related to the public schools system on Monday.
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Additionally, the second-term governor doubled down on her order yesterday to trace all New York travelers coming into the state by land and air, announcing the R.I. National Guard will be going door-to-door in seaside communities looking for New Yorkers, collecting their personal information and ordering them to quarantine.
“We will be targeting those homes where people have come from New York,” she said.
Raimondo’s order targeting New Yorkers has been met with push back from different places, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, which issued a statement Thursday claiming the action violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“The Governor has taken many steps to address this crisis that carefully balance public health needs and the civil rights of citizens. This one does not,” said ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown. “We urge her not to follow through with such an ill-advised and unconstitutional plan.”
The governor rebuffed the claim, pointing out that laws change during a state of an emergency, and added that she’s receiving federal guidance from the Trump Administration and legal advice from her administration as she makes these decisions.
And while the governor said she doesn’t like the optics of the state’s militia going door-to-door looking for a specific group of people, she said it’s better than the hospitals becoming overfilled with people coming from a place known to have a high number of cases.
“We know New York is a hot spot, we know it’s a dangerous place,” she said.
The number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in the New York metro area has grown to more than 30,000 in recent days.
The 38 new COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island, meanwhile, represents the largest one-day increase since the first case was announced on March 1. There have been more than 80 new cases in the last two days.
Additionally, five more people have been hospitalized since yesterday, as the number increased to 28. Eleven are in intensive-care units, according to Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, who added that the numbers of confirmed cases still does not give a full picture of how how widespread the disease is in Rhode Island because of limited testing.
“I want people to understand that there are additional cases out there,” she said. “We are sharing these numbers based on who we have tested.”
Alexander-Scott also expects the number of people on self-quarantine will drop dramatically tomorrow, as roughly 1,600 students, teachers and employees at Cranston High School West are slated to end their two-week quarantine period.
Most of the school was placed on quarantine after a student tested positive there about two weeks ago. Alexander-Scott nonetheless urged students to avoid hanging out with their friends, as the disease remains prevalent across the state.
Raimondo delivered some good news to many people in the federal food-purchasing assistance program known as SNAP, as about half of participating families can expect to receive about $140 more on their EBT cards beginning April 1.
“It’s something to help you and your families get through this incredibly difficult time,” Raimondo said.
Rhode Islanders slated to re-certify for SNAP benefits next month are also being given a six-month extension to reapply, Raimondo added.
In a more omonious note, Raimondo said Rhode Island’s health care system is not ready to sustain a spike in cases similar to what’s happening in New York. She said the health care system isn’t set up yet to handle such an influx, although she said the state is moving in the right direction and could get there with more time.
In that same vain, Raimondo called on all trained medical and mental health professionals — including part-time doctors and other medical workers — not currently part of the response, to please help out and volunteer their time.
In an effort to stem the spread of the disease in state-owned facilities, the Raimondo administration has ordered the state’s two casinos operated by Twin River to close indefinitely. The State House is likewise shut down to visitors until further notice.
The governor said she noted a sense of growing anxiety among Rhode Islanders as parts of the economy remain shutdown, people continue to be out of work and students are expected to learn from home.
But she urged people to remain calm and to continue to work together and help each other out.
Alexander-Scott said people should nonetheless remain vigilant in their neighborhoods to help curb the spread of COVID-19, going so far as to suggest calling the police if seeing a game of basketball where people are actively disobeying state orders. (She did recommend personally asking the group to disperse first.)
But responding to a question about whether people should call the police if they suspect a neighbor has traveled from New York, Raimondo offered an alternative approach.
“Ask if they need groceries,” she said, adding that people should also remind them to stay home.