Raimondo: Federal Stimulus; Store Restrictions

by | Mar 25, 2020

Above: Gov. Gina Raimondo at Wednesday’s press briefing. The Providence Journal / Kris Craig

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The number of new COVID-19 cases increased by 8 Wednesday, for a total of 132, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced at her daily press briefing. For the first time the state Dept. of Health released numbers for each town and East Greenwich had no cases (find the breakdown at the bottom of this post).

Praising Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, Raimondo said Wednesday was a good day for the state because of the $2 trillion stimulus package passed in Washington early that morning. In particular, she gave a shout out to Sen. Jack Reed, who was part of the negotiating team, and the $1.25 billion in aid coming to Rhode Island due to a “small state minimum” added to the bill.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Raimondo said of the COVID-19 crisis. “There are going to be ups and downs – this is a definite up.” 

She said her team was still sifting through the bill but so far she could say there will be funding for direct support for local businesses, including small business loans. In addition, there will be money directly for hospitals and there will be expanded unemployment benefits, including benefits for those not usually eligible, such as independent contractors and members of the gig economy, as well as small business owners. 

Raimondo said she would have more information Thursday, including on whether or not there was direct money for cities and towns in the bill. 

The Providence Journal / Kris Craig

Noting she’d been seeing too many cars in parking lots and too many shoppers in stores, Raimondo said the state would be implementing tighter restrictions on grocery stores and big box stores to cut down on crowding. Stores will have to reduce the number of shoppers allowed inside at any one time and will have to clean more deeply and more often. If that means shoppers will have to line up outside, they need to space out. 

Wherever possible, she said, shoppers should order and pay online and drive to the location for pickup. To that end, Raimondo said she was asking retailer to make it easier for people to shop online. The state police will be conducting spot checks of area stores to make sure there are no crowds.

But, Raimondo said, it’s not just up to the retailers. 

“We the shopper, the consumer, have to help out,” she said. “If you go to the deli counter and there’s a line, come back later. If you go to the grocery store, and there’s a line, come back later, or wait in your car for a while…. If you find yourself in a crowd, you shouldn’t be doing that.”

The governor also said she would be making a few announcements Friday about extensions to executive orders, including the order closing restaurants to dine-in service that goes through March.

Nicole Alexander-Scott, M.D., M.P.H.

Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said out of the total 132 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Rhode Island so far, 16 were in the hospital, with some of those in intensive care. 

Testing continues to be limited but Alexander-Scott said the state was putting in place respiratory clinics to handle patients with any types of respiratory illness, which will help the state conserve personal protective equipment (PPE). Anyone experiencing symptoms should call first, she said, either their personal doctor or, if they don’t have one, a nearby urgent care clinic. 

When asked if the lower number of positives today was a good sign, Raimondo said there will be more cases, but she lauded the state’s “quick, aggressive action” clamping down on large groups and pushing social distancing. She said it was premature to know exactly where Rhode Island is in the spread of the virus at this point. 

But, she added, “I’m very encouraged we aren’t seeing the spikes other areas are seeing.” 

Raimondo said nursing homes, in particular, had been doing a great job. During the briefing, she also lauded employees at Health and Human services, especially DCYF workers, where she said it was incredibly hard in the best of times, but was now “indescribably difficult.” She also congratulated the Department of Human Services, which moved practically everything online. 

From the Dept. of Health: 

Governor Gina M. Raimondo and Dr. Alexander-Scott today announced new guidelines issued by the Department of Business Regulation for retailers and grocers as part of the state’s response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

As of 5PM tomorrow, all retailers and grocers must:

  • Allow no more than 20% of stated fire capacity in the store at a time;
  • Require staff to count the number of customers entering and exiting the store and enforce limits;
  • Clearly mark 6’ spacing in lines and other high-traffic areas. Stores should consider posting signage or using ropes to direct customers and to limit bottlenecks/encourage flow in high-density areas of stores;
  • Designate employees to monitor social distancing and assist customers;
  • Maximize space between customers and employees at checkout;
  • Designate employee(s) to ensure the cleaning guidelines set by the CDC are followed;
  • Discontinue self-serve foods and product sampling; and
  • Offer exclusive hours for those in high-risk populations, including seniors, where stores will restrict entrance to maintain 10% of fire capacity.

Larger grocery stores and retailers with more than 25,000 square feet are encouraged to offer pickup and/or delivery options.

Dr. Alexander-Scott announced today that Rhode Island has eight additional cases of COVID-19. Five of these individuals are males, and three are females. They range in age from their 30s to their 60s. This brings Rhode Island’s case count to 132.

Data

Rhode Island COVID-19 data is available online.

  • Number of Rhode Island COVID-19 positive (including presumptive positive) cases: 132
  • Number of people who had negative test results at RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories: 1,339
  • Number of people for whom tests are pending at RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories: 181
  • Number of people who are currently instructed to self-quarantine in Rhode Island: approximately 3,000

Distribution of Rhode Island COVID-19 patients by sex:

  • Females: 66
  • Males: 66

Distribution of Rhode Island COVID-19 patients by age:

  • 0-19: 6
  • 20-29: 22
  • 30-39: 24
  • 40-49: 24
  • 50-59: 28
  • 60-69: 15
  • 70-79: 11
  • 80-89: 0
  • 90 and older: 2

Distribution of Rhode Island COVID-19 patients by city/town of residence:

  • Barrington – fewer than 5
  • Bristol – fewer than 5
  • Burrillville – fewer than 5
  • Central Falls – fewer than 5
  • Charlestown – 0
  • Coventry – fewer than 5
  • Cranston – 11
  • Cumberland – fewer than 5
  • East Greenwich – 0
  • East Providence – 8
  • Exeter – 0
  • Foster – fewer than 5
  • Glocester – 0
  • Hopkinton – 0
  • Jamestown – fewer than 5
  • Johnston – fewer than 5
  • Lincoln – fewer than 5
  • Little Compton – 0
  • Middletown – 5
  • Narragansett – fewer than 5
  • New Shoreham – 0
  • Newport – fewer than 5
  • North Kingstown – fewer than 5
  • North Providence – fewer than 5
  • North Smithfield – fewer than 5
  • Pawtucket – 5
  • Portsmouth – fewer than 5
  • Providence – 42
  • Richmond – 0
  • Scituate – fewer than 5
  • Smithfield – fewer than 5
  • South Kingstown – 7
  • Tiverton – 0
  • Warren – fewer than 5
  • Warwick – 7
  • West Greenwich – 0
  • West Warwick – 0
  • Westerly – fewer than 5
  • Woonsocket – fewer than 5

Number of Rhode Island COVID-19 patients who are currently hospitalized:

  • 15

Data notes:

  • City and town numbers between 1 and 4 are listed as “fewer than five” for patient privacy reasons.
  • The number of COVID-19 patients in a city or town should not be used to draw any conclusions about relative risk in different cities and towns. All Rhode Islanders should continue to take all the COVID-19 precautions that have been shared by RIDOH.
  • Hospital laboratories and private laboratories are now testing for COVID-19. The number of positives reported above includes all positives from all laboratories for Rhode Islanders. However, the number of negative and pending test results are only for RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories. A unified data collection process for negative and pending test results is being developed. (Individual patients are being notified directly by their healthcare providers of negative test results.)

Key messages for the public

  • If you have traveled anywhere internationally in the last 14 days, self-quarantine for 14 days. That means do not go to work or school and stay at home.
  • Avoid all crowded places, large events, and mass gatherings. This is social distancing. However, people should continue doing essential errands (such as going to the grocery store).
  • Through March 30th, 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.)
  • Due to the closure of schools, free “Grab and Go” meals are available for children throughout Rhode Island. More information is available online.
  • Whenever possible, avoid close personal contact with people in public. When greeting people avoid handshakes and hugs. Additional guidance is available from CDC.
  • 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. These people should not go directly to a healthcare facility without first calling a healthcare provider (unless they are experiencing a medical emergency). Healthcare providers have a dedicated number that they are then using to consult with RIDOH on potential COVID-19 cases.
  • Early data suggest that older adults are twice as likely to experience serious COVID-19 illness. RIDOH is reiterating CDC’s guidance for people older than 60 years of age:
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

o    When greeting people avoid handshakes and hugs.

o    Be sure you have over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies (tissues, etc.) to treat fever and other symptoms. Most people will be able to recover from COVID-19 at home.

o    Pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms including, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor.

o    More information is available from CDC.

o    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. The Hotline will be staffed this weekend from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm both Saturday and Sunday. (After hours people are being directed to call 211.)

  • 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. Viruses can spread by coughing or sneezing on other people or into your hands.

o    Stay home from work or school if you are sick.

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


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