COVID-19 cases by age, as of March 31, 2020.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The number of cases of COVID-19 continues to climb in Rhode Island, with 86 cases since Monday for a total of 488. There were 4 more deaths, bringing the total to 8. The number of those in the hospital grew to 59 – a jump of 18 since Monday. Of those, 14 people are in intensive care, 9 on ventilators. (Find the most recent data HERE.)

“Going from 41 to 59 people … is a significant and serious jump,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo at her daily State House briefing. “You should know we’re in a rapid-spread phase of the disease.”

“You’re supposed to be buckling down like you never have before.” – Gov. Raimondo to Rhode Islanders

As for what the public should be doing at this point, she said, “You’re supposed to be buckling down like you never have before.”

She said Rhode Islanders needed to heed calls to stay home and to keep the number of contacts with others way down to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.

“Here in Rhode Island, we don’t have enough hospital beds,” said Raimondo. “So we need to buy time.” 

She gave Rhode Islanders a homework assignment: every night, write down the number of people you come into contact with that day. That information could help with contact tracing if you were to get sick.

The beach at Goddard State Park Tuesday afternoon. There were plenty of cars in the lot but people were widely spaced. The park will close Friday.

Citing what she said were still too many crowds at parks and beaches, Raimondo said state parks and beaches would be closed as of Friday. That includes popular Goddard Park in nearby Potowomut. 

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, head of the health department, gave the ages of those who had died: one man in his 60s, one woman in her 80s, and a man and a woman in their 70s. 

“Our deepest sympathies for those families,” said Alexander-Scott.

Up until now, testing has been largely limited to priority groups – those in the hospital, health care workers, and those living in nursing homes. Now, with newly opened mobile testing sites at CCRI Warwick, URI and Rhode Island College, testing is being expanded to those 65 and older who are experiencing symptoms, those working in critical fields like police and fire, and those with underlying medical problems. 

She reiterated rules from Monday: only people with appointments can go to the mobile testing sites and appointments are made through primary care doctors, urgent care centers and the Dept. of Health.

Alexander-Scott also said nursing students who had completed at least one semester of nursing school were eligible to apply for a special 90-day CNA license. 

Gov. Raimondo also put out another call for additional health-care workers.

“We are in desperate need of medical professionals not working full time right now. If you’re retired, if you’re only working part time, if you have extra time on your hands, I’m calling you up,” she said. Her call for health care volunteers last week got 400 people to sign up. “We could use another 400,” she said. Those interested can sign up at RIresponds.org.

Asked about the University of Washington projections on the arch of the illness nationwide and state by state (find a link to that work HERE), Raimondo said her team was well aware of that model – which has Rhode Island’s virus curve peeking April 19. 

“Our [own] model would suggest the peak is further out and also higher,” she said. “The University of Washington model is directionally correct,” she said but “like any model, it’s all dependent on assumptions. If we are very good at our social distancing … the model will look different.”

RI DOH’s press release from Tuesday evening, 3/31/20: 

Governor Gina M. Raimondo and Nicole, Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) made several announcements about the state’s response to COVID-19.

  • State parks and beaches: As of this Friday, April 3rd, state beaches and parks in Rhode Island will be closed. Campground openings will be postponed until at least May 1st. More information about this announcement is available online.
  • Masking of healthcare workers: All healthcare workers in all hospitals and nursing homes (as well as home health workers) should be wearing masks at all times when engaged in direct patient care. RIDOH has been working, and will continue to work, with facilities on strategies to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Expanded testing: Testing had previously focused on healthcare workers (including EMS), hospitalized patients, and people who live in congregate living settings (such as nursing homes). With three additional remote swabbing sites (“drive-through testing sites”) now operational Rhode Island is expanding testing to three additional populations: people who are older than 65, people with underlying medical conditions, and critical infrastructure workers (such as police officers and firefighters). To be tested someone must have symptoms. If someone in one of these groups has symptoms that they think need medical care, they should call their doctor. Someone cannot be tested in Rhode Island without being directed to a testing site by their doctor.
  • Business help: The Rhode Island Superior Court is rolling out a new program to assist businesses that have been significantly disrupted by this virus. Normally, businesses that can’t pay their bills are sold and their assets are divided by creditors. This new program will enable attorneys and accountants to work with business owners so that they can continue to operate, access capital like disaster assistance, and pay their debts incrementally – all under Court-supervised protection from lawsuits. This program will give qualifying businesses vital protection so that they can get back on their feet after this crisis is over. More information can be found on the Court’s website.

The Governor also repeated her call for trained medical and behavioral health professionals not currently working full time to sign up as volunteers at www.RIresponds.org.

Data

Additionally, Dr. Alexander-Scott announced today that Rhode Island has 86 new cases of COVID-19. This brings Rhode Island’s count to 488. Dr. Alexander-Scott also announced four additional COVID-19 associated fatalities. One of these individuals was a male in his 60s, and one person was a female in her 80s. The two other people were a male and a female, both in their 70s.This brings Rhode Island’s total for COVID-19 associated fatalities to eight. A full data summary for Rhode Island is posted online.

Key messages for the public

  • Anyone who is sick should stay home and self-isolate. The people who live with that person should self-quarantine for 14 days. If you need to get food or pick up medicine, call a loved one or neighbor who can run that errand for you.
  • Groups of more than five people should not be gathering. Avoid close personal contact with other people in public at all times.
  • Healthcare workers should not be doing to work if they are sick (even with mild symptoms).
  • Through April 13th, there will be no on-site food consumption for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, or other food establishments in Rhode Island. (Establishments with a food license can continue to conduct pick-up, drive-thru and delivery only.)
  • People without symptoms should not be tested for COVID-19. Testing individuals with no symptoms is not recommended by CDC.
  • People who think they have COVID-19 should call their healthcare provider. Do not go directly to a healthcare facility without first calling a healthcare provider (unless you are experiencing a medical emergency).
  • Early data suggest that older adults are twice as likely to experience serious COVID-19 illness.
  • People with general, non-medical questions about COVID-19 can visit www.health.ri.gov/covid, write to RIDOH.COVID19Questions@health.ri.gov, or call 401-222-8022. This is the COVID-19 Hotline that RIDOH has available to the public.
  • Everyone can help stop the spread of viruses in Rhode Island.

o    Get your flu shot, and make sure the people around you do the same.

o    Wash your hands often throughout the day. Use warm water and soap. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

o    Cough or sneeze into your elbow.

o    Stay home and do not leave your house if you are sick, unless it is for emergency medical care.

o    Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.


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