Above: Denise Emery, Jeff Ferland and Robert Rhault bring happy birthday wishes to their mother/grandmother.
Phase 2 is scheduled to begin Monday; Gov. Raimondo was also questioned about racism at Friday’s new conference
By Hope McKinney
On Friday, there were 122 new cases of COVID-19; Rhode Island now has 14,635 total cases. There were 16 new deaths. 219 people are currently hospitalized because of the virus, 47 of those in the ICU and 33 of those on ventilators. The number of confirmed cases in East Greenwich went up to 70. Find all the latest data on the DOH data dashboard HERE.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said she’s confident Phase 2 will begin on Monday as planned, noting the decline in new cases and hospitalizations. Phase 2 will not include a change for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“I know that’s tough,” she said. “We all wish it could be different, but right now, it can’t. I hope that will be able to change in Phase 3.”
On a positive note, visitation will be relaxed for other congregate care settings, such as DCYF group homes, DCYF visitation, and the ACI, as well as other congregate care settings and communal living settings where the population isn’t sick and frail. These guidelines can be found on ReopeningRI.com.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott announced that the Department of Health has completed the first two rounds of cyclical testing in all nursing homes throughout the state and are well into the third round of testing.
“It is uncomfortable to know about the desire to visit loved ones,” Alexander-Scott said. “This decision [to prohibit visits] is reached because these are life and death situations.”
Starting tomorrow, places of worship can reopen with up to 25 percent capacity. (Read more about what EG houses of worship are doing HERE.) But Raimondo encouraged older or sick residents to stay home.
“If you are older, if you are sick, it is your choice but you might want to think about continuing to observe remotely,” she said.
For those businesses or houses of worship not ready to reopen, Raimondo urged them to wait until they felt comfortable.
“It is so much better to be safe than sorry,” Raimondo said. “Take it at your own pace.”
Raimondo also stressed that businesses should not open Monday if their COVID control plan has not been completed, warning that business inspections will increase under Phase 2.
“If we show up and ask you for your COVID-19 plan and you don’t have one, there will be consequences,” Raimondo said.
Businesses can find a template for the control plan on ReopeningRI.com.
As for employees who don’t want to return to their workplace, Raimondo asked employers not to report them to the Department of Labor and Training but rather to do everything they could to make their workplace feel safe.
On the other side, she encouraged employees to go back to work if they feel healthy and safe enough.
“You should go back to work if you can because you can’t guarantee your job will be there at the end of July,” she said. “If I was your friend, I would say don’t take that risk.”
Twin River Casino will reopen on June 8 by invitation only. There will be no table games, extreme social distancing, mask-wearing and extra sanitary precautions. The restaurants in the casino will have the same guidelines as other restaurants in the state.
Raimondo reiterated the four data points the state is following to track the virus and determine whether or not the state is prepared to reopen.
- First, hospitals must have less than 70 percent of hospital beds filled with COVID patients. Today, there’s less than 30 percent.
- Second, hospitalizations need to be on a steady decline for about a month, at 30 or fewer new hospitalizations each day. They are now consistently well below 30 every day.
- Third, the rate of spread needed to be at 1.1 or lower. This value is a measure of how quickly the infection is spreading. When the pandemic began, this number was at about 4, meaning one infected person spread it to four other people. Now, the state is at about 0.7 which means each person is infecting less than one other person.
- Finally, hospitalizations needed to be doubling every 30 days or more. Currently, hospitalizations have been declining and not doubling at all.
“If at any point in the next few weeks we start to get into trouble on these metrics, then I’ll have to make changes,” Raimondo warned. “If things change, then we have to change and that’s the way we’re going to be living for awhile.”
Raimondo said she hoped to reach Phase 3 in early July, about a month after the start of Phase 2.
Aside from the issue of COVID, a reporter brought up the comments directed at Jennifer Rourke, a candidate for state Senate Dist. 29 in Warwick, at a virtual town hall she held two nights ago with two other candidates. Rourke posted a video on her Twitter last night, tearfully noting that people filled the “Q and A with paragraphs of the n-word” and told her “to get lynched.”
“It’s the toughest job I’ve ever had in my life to be a black woman running for office,” Rourke said. “I need y’all to do something. Speak up. Speak out.”
This incident was brought up in relation to the recent murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man from Minnesota, by a Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Raimondo said she was not aware of the comments against Rourke but said there has to be immense change to fix discriminatory behavior throughout the country.
“Racism or discrimination of any kind, in any way, is intolerable and we need to put a lid on it,” she said. “What we are seeing in the Midwest is indescribably horrible. It is such a wake-up call for every one of us that we have a long way to go in this country to put a lid on racism and discrimination of every kind.”
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