Virus Update: Rhode Island’s at a ‘Turning Point’

by | Aug 5, 2020

Data: The R.I. Department of Health said there were 84 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Rhode Island to 19,481. There was 1 new death on Wednesday. The total number of deaths is 1,012. The number of confirmed cases in East Greenwich went from 104 to 110. Find all the most recent data at the DOH data hub HERE

Gov. Gina Raimondo said Rhode Island will double down on COVID-19 regulations after several weeks of slightly higher positive virus cases in the state and travel restrictions against RI residents put in place by surrounding states. 

Residents of Rhode Island traveling to Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York for more than 24 hours must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Rhode Islanders wishing to stay in Massachusetts either need to quarantine for 14 days or have proof of a negative COVID test within the 72 hours prior to traveling there. Those traveling for work, commuters or residents seeking medical care are exempt.

“It should certainly be a wake up call to the people of Rhode Island that we need to do better,” Raimondo said at her weekly COVID-19 press conference Wednesday. “Our numbers are creeping up, there’s no doubt about it. The less we’re all traveling, the better.” 

Nonetheless, she said, this isn’t cause for alarm – noting the percent positive rate is still below 3 percent – but that action needs to be taken in order to avoid putting more restrictive rules in place. 

“Let’s not get lazy. Let’s keep our groups small. Let’s wear our masks,” she implored.

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the state health department, said that the number of new cases has varied since last week, with some days reaching up to case numbers of 120 and 130. However, fatality numbers have been somewhat lower in the past week, including three days with no coronavirus-associated fatalities. 

“Because of that, we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can at this turning point to keep numbers controlled,” she said. 

Raimondo said that enforcement will be ramped up in relation to the out-of-state quarantine order. With RIDOH tracing more than 11 percent of cases back to out-of-state travel, anyone coming to the state from one of the 33 states around the country with a positive rate greater than 5 percent must quarantine for 14 days or present a negative test taken less than 72 hours prior to travel.  

Raimondo also announced that anyone from those 33 states who checks into a hotel or any kind of rental property will need to sign a certificate of compliance verifying a negative test result for the virus, or the intention to quarantine for 14 days, beginning this Sunday. If any person can’t do this, they can’t stay in Rhode Island. These hotels and properties are required to explain this to customers when they call or make a reservation. Members of the National Guard and RIDOH will be deployed at the airport and train station, passing out information to anyone traveling here and seeing if they have proof of a negative test. 

For residents planning to travel out of state this weekend, Raimondo announced that getting a rapid test has been made easier so travel plans won’t get disrupted. Starting Wednesday, residents can go HERE and select the option of planning to travel to another state to get tested at the Rhode Island Convention Center site. She said results should be returned within 24 to 48 hours.  

In response to delays in testing results, Raimondo announced a contract with two new labs, Accu Reference and Dominion Diagnostics. She said this will massively expand testing capacity and guarantee everyone will get their results within 48 hours. Starting next week, these labs will each run 1,000 tests a day with a 48-hour turnaround time. Next month, Dominion Diagnostics plans to increase to 7,000 tests a day. This means a possibility of up to 9,000 tests a day. 

Because some recent outbreaks have been linked to social events among people aged 18 to 39, the state is now offering free, asymptomatic testing for every Rhode Islander in that age group starting today. Go HERE and sign up for a test. Health officials hope they will get a better sense of how the virus is moving through people in that age range.

After the social gathering limit was decreased to 15 people, Raimondo said a new Crush COVID unit within the state police has been set up to crack down on any social gatherings over that number. The fine for violating this limit is up to $500 per person. 

“If you see a social gathering that is too big, folks don’t have their mask on, bunched up and close to each other, reach out and let us know,” she said. To report a violation, call (401) 764-5554. 

Raimondo returned to the topic of bars – something she has addressed several times in recent weeks – stating that inspectors last weekend found 20 percent of bars still not separating the bartender from customers. If there’s no improvement by next week, she said, she won’t hesitate to shut down bars that are not compliant.

“This is totally unacceptable,” she said. 

Effective Friday, no restaurant bar areas in Rhode Island will be allowed to be open after 11 p.m. Restaurants that have a bar area can stay open and serve drinks with dinner at a table but the bar area must be closed. Details about how this will be enforced and what bar areas should look like can be found on www.reopeningRI.com.

As plans for reopening continue to evolve, Raimondo noted that municipalities must have weekly case incident rates of fewer than 10 new cases per 10,000 people in order to fully reopen their schools for in-person learning. East Greenwich has around 13,000 people so we would need to stay below 13 new cases a week; EG has not had more than 10 cases in a given week so far. If any municipality can’t achieve this, they will have to go for one of their more limited options for reopening. Plans can be found at www.backtoschoolRI.com.

Raimondo also acknowledged the storm that swept the state, causing 150,000 residents to lose power. She said that the National Grid is working hard to get everyone’s power back. She said it’s expected that two thirds of residences without power should be back on by Thursday at 1 p.m. 


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