By Suraj Sait
There were 547 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the state’s total to 4,706, and there were 32 deaths. As of Sunday, 150 Rhode Islanders had died of the coronavirus. The number of people in the hospital remained stable at 254 – 70 of those in the ICU and 43 on ventilators. The number of confirmed cases in East Greenwich remained at 20.
“We aren’t seeing the steepness of the curve that we had been seeing a week or two ago,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo at her press conference Saturday, crediting Rhode Islanders’ compliance with social distancing.
Raimondo’s executive order compelling all employees who deal with the public to wear face covers went into effect Saturday. During her press conference Sunday, she said spot checks by the Dept. of Business Regulation of 200 stores found workers were indeed wearing face covers or masks.
“Compliance was terrific,” said Raimondo. “We’re continuing to do these unannounced inspections.”
Although customers were not addressed in that same executive order, on Sunday the governor indicated customers “must” wear face covers too, and state Dept. of Health’s Dr. James McDonald echoed that message, showing the face cloth he uses.
Raimondo singled out drive-thrus, noting that all of the employees inspected were wearing masks appropriately. However, she said that many of the customers weren’t wearing cloth masks.
“You’re not 6 feet away from somebody when you’re at a drive-thru,” said Raimondo. “Let’s do the right thing and keep them safe.”
Still, she said she did not want business owners to turn customers away who were not wearing face covers.
The governor announced a new fund Saturday set up to help artists – the Rhode Island Artists Relief Fund. Art teachers, artists, art administrators, freelance artists, and art cultural workers all have the opportunity to draw from this fund, which was established by the R.I. State Council of Arts in partnership with the Rhode Island Foundation. So far, the fund has dispersed $126,000 to aid about 250 artists around the state.
And Raimondo addressed an issue that’s been frustrating for owners of smaller garden centers – big stores deemed essential for their food or hardware offerings, like Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe’s, have been doing a brisk business in garden supplies too. Raimondo said she would be allowing smaller garden centers to re-open April 27 but would be issuing guidelines for their operation on Monday.
In an anticipated move, Raimondo announced Sunday the state would open a new testing site at Bailey Elementary School in Providence. The action comes in response to the high number of confirmed cases in the capital city – 1,317 –and the inability for many residents to access the mobile testing sites because of a lack of transportation. Anyone seeking a test must go through their healthcare provider, as is the case in all the testing sites except the CVS site at Twin River (where you schedule a test through the CVS website).
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