Above: A birthday party in the era of COVID-19 for Winnie, in the center, on Rector Street last week.
By Hope McKinney
The number of new COVID-19 cases was 210 Saturday. The total number of cases in Rhode Island was 10,989. There were 19 new fatalities, for a total of 418. The total number of cases in East Greenwich, 47, has not been updated since Monday. Hospital numbers went down to 292 people in the hospital with coronavirus-related illness, with 77 people in the ICU and 56 people on ventilators. Find the Department. of Health’s data dashboard HERE.
At her daily COVID-19 briefing Saturday afternoon at the State House, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced options to provide relief for residents struggling during the COVID-19 crisis and ensured precautions have been taken after seven people at the Department of Health tested positive for the virus.
Earlier this week, the Public Utilities Commission voted to extend an order that all regulated utilities cannot be shut off or sent to a collection agency through May 31 for residential and nonresidential customers who cannot pay.
“If you’re in a position to pay, please pay,” Raimondo said. “Having said that, if you can’t pay, don’t worry about it. Your water won’t go off, your heat won’t go off, your electric won’t go off. I don’t want you to worry on top of all your other worries about having your most basic needs met.”
She also announced that the state has partnered with an organization called Summer, a student loan advisory service meant to provide relief for people struggling with student debt, especially during the crisis. They’re offering their services to residents for free; find a link HERE.
Raimondo reiterated that the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority is suspending monthly loan payments for up to three months for those whose income has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. After your request is verified, you will have no payments for three months. For more information on this, go to www.RISLA.com.
Yesterday, the federal delegation announced that the USDA approved two local and essential state organizations to provide food, funding the distribution of food boxes. These include Farm Fresh Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. By the end of May, they will begin distributing 500 boxes of healthy and fresh local food to food-insecure families in the state weekly.
“We hope to ramp from 500 a week to 4,000 boxes a week over the course of the summer and the fall,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo also reminded people that Family Service of Rhode Island is providing home delivery of cleaning supplies and food for some of the most vulnerable families who can’t afford these essentials. These kits have reached over 7,000 residents, including parents taking care of young kids, people who are isolated and people with disabilities. She encouraged those in a position to donate to text BESAFE to 44321.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Department of Health, announced that one of their staff members got a positive test result for COVID-19 earlier this week. They coordinated testing for the staff and found out late yesterday that six others were positive. They are all at home isolating, along with their contacts. They are having a thorough environmental cleaning of the Cannon building today. She emphasized that this is not interrupting their work with the COVID-19 response.
“We will continue to ensure that all of our staff are wearing masks, that we’re screening for symptoms and doing the important work that we’re asking everyone throughout the state to be able to do,” Alexander-Scott said.
Today, retail establishments can begin in-person customer shopping with new rules, including fewer people in the store, social distancing of six feet, and wearing a mask (read more HERE).
“I’d encourage you to go shopping,” Raimondo said. “Our retailers need it. If you have some money in your pocket to spend, let’s go ahead and think about getting back out there.”
Retailers have to complete and sign a checklist indicating that they have reviewed the new business guidance and feel ready to reopen. These guidelines can be found HERE. Those with questions about these guidelines can send an email to [email protected]
Additionally, press conferences will be held at 1 p.m. every Monday through Friday starting this Monday. They will no longer be held on the weekends.
They also will not hold a press conference tomorrow in honor of Mother’s Day. However, Raimondo and Dr. Alexander-Scott will be sharing a special Mother’s Day video in honor of all the mothers in Rhode Island with a special thanks to the mothers working on the frontlines for the past eight weeks.
Raimondo reiterated the importance of keeping social networks limited and only engaging in social gatherings of five people for the next couple weeks, especially in anticipation for the holiday tomorrow.
For daily updates regarding COVID-19, you can head to www.governor.ri.gov and press the button at the top of the site for updates sent to your email.
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