Above: Gov. Gina Raimondo at her daily virus briefing along with Dept. of Health director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. Pool photo: Sandor Bodo / Providence Journal
By Elizabeth F. McNamara
Rhode Island had 325 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 18 new deaths Thursday. That brought the state’s total cases to 10,530 and total deaths to 388. The data for cities and towns has not been updated since Monday, when East Greenwich had 47 cases. Find the Dept. of Health’s data dashboard HERE.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said Thursday she would allow the stay-at-home order instituted March 28 to expire Friday, as planned, replaced by Phase I of reopening Rhode Island.
She offered seven metrics that guided her decision:
- Testing expansion (read more HERE);
- A 14-day downward or stable trend in new cases. Raimondo said the current three-day average shows a decrease of 5 new hospitalizations a day over two weeks ago and a decrease of 95 new cases a day over two weeks ago;
- Testing of people with symptoms needed to be done within 72 hours; Raimondo said in most cases, people are able to get tested within 48 hours;
- The state needed more accessible testing for the more vulnerable communities and that has happened, both in congregate care settings and with walk-in testing sites in a number of cities;
- Raimondo said the state needed to be able to complete contact tracing within 48 hours; “we’re reaching out to 90 percent within 24 hours” now, she said;
- Rhode Island needed to have systems in place to help people stuck at home with the virus or in quarantine because of possible exposure to the virus. That has happened, Raimondo said, with meal and food deliveries, hotel rooms for homeless individuals, and technology to help people get what they need;
- Raimondo said she was looking for 30 percent of ICU beds open as well as sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers. Right now, hospital ICUs across the state have 35 percent capacity and there are the three field hospitals at the ready in case of a surge. PPE supplies are now at a more comfortable place, with weeks’ worth of supplies of pretty much everything but gowns. Gowns remain a top priority, she said;
- Appropriate workplace guidance and regulations needed to be established. That’s been done (and will continue to be updated as the economy reopens further) and can be found at reopeningri.com.
The goal, said Raimondo, is to get as many people back to work without risking public health.
“If we have learned one thing about this virus – if you stay ahead of the curve, you can control its spread,” she said. “You should have confidence that when we go into Phase I and eventually Phase II, that you will be safe.”
Raimondo painted the picture of Phase I and repeated what’s she said several times this past week: “What’s it going to look like? Frankly, not that different than it is now…. It won’t be visibly much different.”
Phase I is about getting people back to work, not taking part in social gatherings. Rhode Islanders are still limited to gatherings of five people.
Non-essential retail stores can reopen, with capacity limits – 1 customer for every 300 sq. ft. of space. And everyone is supposed to wear a face mask or cover, though Raimondo said shop owners were not in charge of policing that order beyond putting up signs and making gentle requests.
“Be careful, but go ahead and get back out there,” Raimondo told Rhode Islanders. “Do a little bit of safe shopping.”
Everyone who can work from home, should work from home, she said. But offices can open on a limited basis.
Non-critical outpatient procedures, tests and surgeries are beginning to resume, so the governor encouraged residents to reschedule appointments that might have been cancelled in March or April.
Churches can now have up to five people inside, making it possible to videotape a mass or service; up to 10 people are now allowed at funerals, at a social distance. Drive-in church services are allowed, but people must stay in their cars.
Several state parks will reopen Saturday, with limited parking. Find more information about that HERE.
Here are the governor’s executive orders extended through May 22:
- Social gatherings remained limited to 5 people.
- People coming in from out of state must quarantine for 14 days, but there are exceptions: you can go across the border for doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and activities like that.
- Wine and beer can continue to be sold with takeout at restaurants, and starting Saturday mixed drinks in sealed containers are added to that list;
- Recreation and entertainment venues will remain closed;
- Gyms and personal care salons will remain closed although Raimondo said she was considering allowing smaller fitness studios to reopen and might be able to announce something next week.
Raimondo extended some orders through June 5:
- Anyone coming from out of the country must quarantine for 14 days;
- Law enforcement will continue to have 30 days to complete a background search for new gun purchases;
- Telehealth will continue to be covered, with referral and prior authorization rules relaxed.