COVID Updates: Nursing Home Deaths Remain High; Youth Sports Allowed

by | May 28, 2020

Above: Health Department’s Dr. James McDonald said Thursday he’s hoping for a vaccine but to let “the science be the science and the process be the process.”

Guidelines continue to roll out for Phase 2, which starts Monday

By Hope McKinney

On Wednesday, there were 124 new cases of COVID-19; Rhode Island now has 14,494 total cases. There were also 22 new deaths, 18 of which are associated with long-term facilities like nursing homes; 222 people are currently hospitalized because of the virus, 53 of those in the ICU and 36 of those on ventilators. The number of confirmed cases in East Greenwich was 68 Thursday. Find all the latest data on the DOH data dashboard HERE.

Gov. Gina Raimondo Thursday. Pool photo: Sandor Bodo / The Providence Journal 

Gov. Gina Raimondo Thursday acknowledged the fact that the rate of deaths has risen in the state, acknowledging it is a nursing home issue. In Rhode Island, around 80 percent of the state’s 677 COVID-19 deaths were among residents of congregate living facilities, particularly nursing homes.

“Infection control in these environments is incredibly difficult,” Raimondo said at her regular coronavirus press conference. “It’s a population that is older and sicker. This virus is brutal on people with underlying health conditions and on people that are older and frail.” 

Dr. James McDonald, chief administrative officer for the state Department of Health, said while he hoped researchers would eventually find treatments and a vaccine, people needed to be realistic.

“I don’t know that we’re going to have a vaccine,” McDonald said. “I want a vaccine, I hope there’s going to be a vaccine but I’m not willing to get ahead of ourselves. I think we have to just let the science be the science and let the process be the process.”

On Monday, Phase 2 begins and there will be many changes, including the rules around retail, indoor dining, and salons.

Restaurants will be allowed to have up to 50 percent capacity indoors. Raimondo reiterated that restaurants must take reservations and get customers’ name and phone number – but not their address – for contact tracing purposes.

Self-service food bars will not be allowed. There will also be no standing service anywhere, including at bars. Standalone bars that don’t serve food will not be allowed to open to prevent congregation.  

Personal services, including hair, nail and tanning salons must also require reservations and mask-wearing. The person performing a service will be close to you but other than that, people must stay 6 feet away from each other. The use of waiting rooms is highly discouraged – instead client can wait in their car and get a text when it’s time to enter.

Raimondo announced some youth sports will be allowed this summer starting Monday. They can be resumed with stable groups of 15 kids or fewer. League sports and tournaments will not be allowed to decrease interaction with a variety of different people. Read more HERE.

By the end of the day Thursday, the details about reopening general businesses, retail, personal services, indoor dining and youth sports will be posted on

To help people unable to pay their rent, Raimondo said she’s adding $5 million to a rental assistance fund initially announced three weeks ago. People can receive up to $5,000 through the fund. For more information, go to or call 211. 

Courts will open fully on Monday, as well. The court has agreed to not process any COVID-related evictions before July 1. Only evictions that happened before March 17 will be heard before July 1.   

Starting tomorrow, Raimondo announced that new testing sites will open at 10 CVS drive-through windows in the state. This will involve making a reservation, doing a self-swab in their car at the site and having their test sent to a lab. 

Brett Smiley, director of administration, said additional hotel facilities made available to help keep numbers down in homeless shelters were scheduled to wrap up on May 31 but have extended that until June 30.  

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