By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The number of new COVID-19 cases was 189 bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Rhode Island to 13,571. The state lost 18 more citizens to the coronavirus, all in their 50s and older. There were 254 people hospitalized with the virus, 56 in intensive care and 41 of those on ventilators. East Greenwich had 67 confirmed cases as of Thursday. Find the most recent numbers on the state Dept. of Health’s data dashboard HERE.

The Patio has expanded its outdoor dining space into the parking lot.

Noting the devastating toll borne by nursing home residents – up to 80 percent of all those who have died from the virus in Rhode Island lived in nursing homes and other congregate care facilities – Gov. Gina Raimondo said at the Thursday COVID-19 press conference employees would be tested on a cyclical basis, every 7 to 10 days. Residents, alternatively, would be tested only when an infection was suspected – but, she added, they already have “a very low threshold” when it comes to testing residents.

In addition, the National Guard will be working as support teams for nursing homes, in particular helping employees make sure they are putting on and removing their personal protective gear properly. 

When asked what she would do differently early on in terms of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Raimondo said she would have moved faster. 

“We did a pretty good job but if I had known then what I know now, I would have shut down sooner,” she said, noting that Taiwan, for instance, “never let the virus run away from them.” 

That’s why all the focus on testing, contact tracing and mask wearing, Raimondo said. “We need to have an early warning system” so the whole state will not have to be shut down again.

The economic effect of the shutdown was reflected in the just out April unemployment numbers, with Rhode Island’s rate at 17 percent. 

“It’s a horrible number,” Raimondo said. “We’re going to work until every one of you gets back to work.” 

She acknowledged some people might not return to the same job, especially if they were retail jobs. 

When asked about the Connecticut casinos Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun’s plans to reopen June 1, Raimondo said that wasn’t the plan for Twin River and Tiverton Casino.

“We’re not going to be able to safely reopen by June 1,” she said. “I’ve got my eye on Las Vegas,” which is planning to start allowing casinos to reopen next week. 

“Opening up a casino, man – you’ve got to get that right,” she said. “If that takes a couple more weeks, I think it’s worth it.” 

Raimondo said 25,000 Rhode Islanders had downloaded the Crush COVID RI phone app so far. Addressing claims made on social media, she said the app did not share a person’s contacts with the state and reiterated that the location data stored on the phone would only be shared with the state if the person chose to share it (in the event of a COVID-19 diagnosis). Find out more about the app HERE.

Municipal Updates: 

  • Emergency Mail Ballot Period begins May 20th for in person voting at the Town Clerk’s office By Appointment Only (call 401-886-8603.)
  • Planning Department is open. Visitors will be asked to sign-in, answer the COVID-19 screening questions, and keep their nose and mouth covered at all times. Most services available online, or via email or phone call. Questions can be directed to 401-886-8645. 
  • All administrative offices are open to the public By Appointment Only (certain services not available; ALL customers are encouraged to continue to do business remotely and call each office before visiting). 
  • All employees and visitors are required to wear face coverings per Executive Order 20-30.

Find the full list of municipal rules and resources during the COVID-19 crisis here: Update on Available Municipal Services 5/18/20.

Outdoor Dining: Several local restaurants are now serving diners outside and others are planning to. Rasa, for instance, already had a small number of seats in front but is seeking permission to add tables in front of the old Norman’s Tap, which has stood empty for a couple of years now. 

The Patio has converted its entire parking lot into a dining area, complete with a tent over part of it. The normal parking rules have been suspended during the crisis and restaurants with parking lots can seek permission to use them.

The state Dept. of Transportation is not allowing restaurants on state roads (including Main Street) to use any part of the roadway for seating but Town Manager Andrew Nota supports such a plan, envisioning jersey-type barriers to protect the diners and slowing the speed on Main Street. 

“If we can slow traffic to 5 or 10 miles an hour, we could create quite a bit of ambiance on Main Street through the summer,” he said this week. “You slow traffic and provide this kind of flexibility or most of these businesses stay closed and eventually they will go out of business.”

Nota said he was working through the R.I. League of Cities and Towns to encourage the state to change its stance. 

“We need a little more cooperation in this area,” he said.

You can find information on the new outdoor dining scene HERE

Goddard Park: The park reopened Monday but there are restrictions. Park employees at the two entrances are keeping track of cars coming in and going out. There’s a limit of 100 cars at either end of the park – the road connecting to the entrances remains closed. The beach is open but bathrooms are not. There is no lifeguard on duty. The golf course remains closed – ”We are working on this but do not have an opening day as of yet,” said a DEM spokeswoman.

Interfaith Food Cupboard: The EGIFC, housed at St. Luke’s Church across from Academy Field, continues to serve people in need of food assistance every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (except holidays), from 10:30 a.m. to noon. If you are interested in donating to the food cupboard, you can leave items in the shopping cart in front of the EG Methodist Church on South County Trail any time or you can drop off items at St. Luke’s between 10 a.m. and noon Mondays and between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Items in particular need right now are canned pears, canned black beans, canned cannellini beans, canned chickpeas, hearty soups and hash. Learn more about the food cupboard HERE.


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