PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — On Monday, Nov. 30, new restrictions and closures will go into effect as the state of Rhode Island enters a two-week “pause” period.
The temporary changes were initiated by Gov. Gina Raimondo in an effort to get the coronavirus under control and she urged Rhode Islanders to abide by them, saying people will lose their lives and their livelihoods otherwise.
During her weekly briefing on Wednesday, Raimondo asked Rhode Islanders to stay at home as much as possible during those two weeks and only go out when necessary.
She also implored people not to have “one last hurrah” before the pause begins, reiterating that social gatherings right now should be limited to the members of a single household, including on Thanksgiving.
Instead, Raimondo suggested making a plan for staying in touch with family and friends during that time, and thanked those who have altered or canceled their holiday plans in the name of safety.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say you’re saving lives,” she said.
The R.I. Department of Health reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday, along with 845 new coronavirus infections.
The new data showed that as of midday Wednesday, Rhode Island had 357 COVID-19 patients in the hospital – the most since early May and just 20 shy of the all-time high on April 28.
Of those 357 patients, 35 were in intensive care and 16 were on ventilators.
Raimondo said the rate of new hospitalizations has nearly tripled over the past five weeks.
“That is a scary number,” she said. “As someone who’s been tracking this data every day for the past eight months, we’ve never seen that.”
Raimondo warned that if people don’t hunker down and the state stays on the current trajectory, hospitals will soon be overwhelmed and forced to turn patients away.
“If we let COVID get further out of control, it doesn’t just meant that we’re going to lose Rhode Islanders to COVID. It means we’re going to start to lose Rhode Islanders to other diseases because they can’t get access to care in the hospital that they need,” Raimondo explained.
When the pause begins, certain businesses such as gyms and fitness centers will have to close while others like restaurants and retailers must reduce their indoor capacity.
Acknowledging that many local businesses and out-of-work Rhode Islanders are struggling already, Raimondo announced an additional $100 million in funding to support those affected by the added restrictions.
She said the goal is to quickly get that money into people’s bank accounts. For businesses, the size of the check will be based on how much revenue they stand to lose during the pause. The applications will be available Friday on the Division of Taxation’s website.
While $50 million will go directly to local businesses, the remaining $50 million will be used to send an additional $200 per week to all Rhode Islanders receiving unemployment benefits during the pause, according to Raimondo.
“The next two weeks are going to be tough,” she said. “I don’t want to pretend that they won’t be. I don’t want to say that staying home for two weeks is going to be easy. There will be nothing easy about it.”
As we enter the holiday shopping season, the governor encouraged people to shop local and online if possible, especially during the two-week pause. She said to visit ShopLocalRhodeIsland.com to learn how you can support small businesses.
Raimondo also provided an update on testing, saying that starting on Wednesday, Dec. 2, Rhode Islanders no longer have to fall into a specific category to get tested and anyone can schedule an appointment on portal.ri.gov. She said 3,000 of those time slots will be set aside each day for patients experiencing symptoms.
Additionally, the state launched a new texting system on Tuesday to let people know their test results are available online. In order to receive that update, Raimondo said patients must provide their cell phone number when getting tested.
As part of the briefing, Raimondo invited Sheila O’Connell of Providence to share her story. She lost her mother-in-law to COVID-19 in May and for months has been separated from her own mother, who lives in a nursing home.
Starting next week, Raimondo will hold her weekly briefings on Thursdays at 1 p.m.