Key COVID-19 headlines for Thursday:
- Two more deaths, both nursing home residents
- N. Providence nursing home has 55 cases
- 12 have died in RI; 657 total cases
- DMV closed after worker tested positive
- Testing expanded to all people with symptoms
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Health said Thursday two more Rhode Islanders with COVID-19 have died since Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 12.
The new deaths were both women, in their 80s and 90s, respectively. They were both residents of the Golden Crest Nursing Center in North Providence, according to spokesperson Joseph Wendelken.
Wendelken said there are 55 positive cases associated with that one nursing home.
The state also announced 91 new cases of COVID-19 overall, bringing the total number of positive test results to 657 in Rhode Island.
There are now 72 people hospitalized, up from 60 on Wednesday. Gov. Gina Raimondo has said she is watching hospitalizations closely, as the state prepares for a possible surge of cases that overwhelms hospital resources.
The Department of Health also announced a significant expansion in testing, allowing all people with symptoms to get tested. Patients still need to call their doctor to get an appointment for a test.
Previously, tests were prioritized for certain populations including health care workers and nursing home residents.
Raimondo said her goal was to do 1,000 tests a day by Thursday. Multiple drive-through testing sites have been set up, including at the state colleges.
The R.I. Department of Motor Vehicles in Cranston also closed for cleaning on Thursday and Friday after an employee tested positive for coronavirus.
The Department of Health has also stopped providing the number of people self-quarantining in Rhode Island, which used to be part of the daily update. Wendelken said the state can no longer track the number because so many people are quarantining based on the governor’s latest orders and not necessarily having contact with the Department of Health.
“For a while, the quarantine process was centralized through RIDOH, so we could make reasonable estimates,” Wendelken explained. “But now people are being told to quarantine after travel to other states, if a family member is sick, if they are feeling symptoms but have not yet been tested, and in many other scenarios.”
Raimondo did not hold her usual daily press conference, but instead had a more casual sit-down question-and-answer session with Rhode Island children. She did not address the latest COVID-19 numbers or deaths; instead, her husband Andy Moffit read questions submitted by children, which she answered live on air.
Raimondo said in response to a question from an East Greenwich 7th-grader that she does not expect to order that gatherings become any smaller than five people.
The governor also said she supports a plan to release 76 nonviolent inmates from the ACI in Cranston that were already slated to be released in the next 90 days.
The agreement was reached between the Attorney General’s office, Public Defender’s office and the Department of Corrections, according to spokesperson Audrey Lucas, and has to be approved by the R.I. Supreme Court.
In addition to the order on gatherings, the governor has issued a stay-at-home order (with exceptions for going to the store, medical appointments or work), and an order for all people traveling to Rhode Island from out-of-state for non-work purposes to quarantine for 14 days.
Her regular news briefings are expected to resume on Friday at 1 p.m.