PROVIDENCE -- Another three Rhode Islanders have died of COVID-19, bringing the state death toll to 30, Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced Tuesday.
The state has seen 147 new cases since Monday, bringing the total to 1,299; 123 people are in the hospital.
The three new fatalities include two residents of the Golden Crest Nursing Centre in North Providence, where 12 residents have now died of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the state Department of Health.
The third fatality involved a resident of the Oak Hill Health and Rehabilitation Center in Pawtucket, she said. Two of the people who died were in their 70s; the other was in their 90s, she said.
“One of the most important messages for us to get out now is if you work in a nursing home, you need to stay home if you are feeling even the faintest of symptoms,” Alexander-Scott said. “Given what we are dealing with, this is absolutely not negotiable right now.”
Raimondo also announced that she’s extending several restrictions through May 8:
- the ban on social gatherings of more than five people
- the ban on dine-in service for restaurants
- the closure of businesses such as hair salons and gyms
- the requirement that those returning from domestic or international travel remain quarantined for 14 days
- the requirement that health care providers make “tele-health” services available by phone
Until further notice, the State House will remain closed, visitors will remain prohibited at nursing homes, hospitals and the Adult Correctional Institutions, state parks and beaches will remain closed, and casinos will remain closed, she said.
Announcements about schools and child care centers will be made in the coming weeks.
Raimondo emphasized the need for Rhode Islanders to stick with precautions such as washing hands, using face coverings, and wiping down surfaces.
“Let’s be honest, this is getting old," she said. “But we have to be vigilant about it every single day, and we are going to be doing that for the next year.” She called it a “new normal that will keep us safe and healthy.”
Raimondo emphasized that no one should be going to work if they are sick. “I don’t care who you are, how essential you are,” she said.
She reminded people that everyone is eligible for 10 days of sick leave under the new federal stimulus program.
The state did 1,800 coronavirus tests on Monday, thanks to the addition of the new CVS Health rapid testing site at the Twin River casino, Raimondo said. “Go ahead and get tested so we can figure out where we are with this virus,” she said.
Raimondo said she signed an executive order requiring daily reports from hospitals in the state on how many people they are treating and testing and how much personal protective equipment and testing equipment they have. As it tries to get equipment, the state needs to know how many masks and other supplies are being used on a daily basis, she said.
The state had received 105,000 unemployment insurance claims as of Tuesday morning, and it has processed 70,000 claims. It takes seven to 14 days to get people unemployment checks, and the quickest way is to apply online, Raimondo said.
She urged Rhode Islanders to go to www.nextdoor.com, sign up for a free account, and see who in your neighborhood might need help.
“I have been so heartened, overwhelmed, and inspired by gestures of kindness and empathy all over Rhode Island,” Raimondo said. “Please keep that up. It’s the only thing that is going to get us through this.”
She also urged all residents, including undocumented immigrants, to get tested if they feel sick. She said no information will be given to immigration authorities. “We are all in it together,” she said.
Alexander-Scott said the state is analyzing demographic data to see how the virus is impacting various ethnic and racial groups. She said it’s important to incorporate “the equity lens” in responding to the outbreak.
Raimondo said restrictions will be lifted gradually to keep people safe while bringing businesses back online.
“There is not going to be a flick of the switch,” she said. “There is a link between economic and physical health. I’m aware of that. But by the same token, I can’t let us go back to business as usual unless I know it’s safe, or as safe as possible.”
Raimondo said she respects the decision by Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza Tuesday to close city parks, fields, courts, and running paths. But she said she is sticking with her plan to keep the parking lots closed at state parks and beaches while allowing people to use them if they walk there.
“Going for a walk is good for mental and physical health,” she said. “I’m not going in that direction, but I can understand why (Elorza) chose to.”
Raimondo said walking, running, and taking dogs for walks are allowed. “The only thing is social gatherings are limited to five or fewer people,” she said.
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org