PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Seven more Rhode Islanders have died, and 334 have tested positive for coronavirus, Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced on Saturday.
That means a total of 56 people have died of COVID-19 associated illnesses since the virus was first detected in Rhode Island on March 1. A total of 2,349 Rhode Islanders have tested positive, and 183 are hospitalized as of Saturday.
Raimondo urged people to continue to maintain social distance and avoid gatherings, especially on Easter Sunday.
“It’s going to be very, very tempting tomorrow to say, ‘Oh can’t I get together with my family? It’s just one dinner, we’ve been cooped up at home for five weeks,’" Raimondo said, in her address at the State Room in the State House. "I’m asking you, please do not do it."
She said she knew it would be hard for people who celebrate Easter. This will be the first Easter that she won’t be spending with her own mother, the governor said.
“Love and faith are still there," Raimondo said, "but please obey the social distancing tomorrow. We are in a critical period where we have a chance to make sure this virus doesn’t spiral out of control.”
She especially told nursing home operators not to allow visitors inside to see the residents. Nursing home residents have made up most of the deaths from COVID-19, and hundreds of residents and health care workers at nursing homes have tested positive.
This has been a tough week, as the number of deaths, hospitalizations and cases are escalating quickly.
Raimondo said she had reassuring news about readiness of hospitals in Rhode Island: “Rest assured the answer is yes, if you get sick, we will be able to take care of you."
She said she spent the morning touring the Rhode Island Convention Center and the former Citizens Bank in Cranston that are being turned into field hospitals. “What’s happening is nothing short of heroic, for all of you working out there ... I am blown away,” Raimondo said. “What they are doing to prepare for hospitals, they are doing 6 months of work in three weeks.”
When will Rhode Island need the first field hospital? Raimondo estimated it would be within a few weeks, and she reiterated a call for new, retired and part-time health care workers to sign up to help.
How many health care workers will be needed? Raimondo said that number on depends how many people are hospitalized. “I want you to have confidence that even have 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 in hospitals, we will have doctors and nurses to take care of you,” she said. “If we obey social distancing, we may never get to that point.”
The governor said the state has a model that projects when and how high the surge will hit, but she has not shared the numbers.
What is working against Rhode Island: the state is densely populated and has a high population of older residents, who are more vulnerable to the disease.
Rhode Island has been hit hard with unemployment claims. A new Tax Foundation report determined that Rhode Island has the highest share of unemployment claims as a percentage of the civilian labor force, at 15.2 percent, in the country.
That is nearly double the percentage of the total U.S. civilian labor force that has now applied for or is receiving benefits: 8.4 percent.
By comparison, Massachusetts is at 11.6 percent, and Connecticut is at 9.5 percent.
Raimondo said on Friday that Rhode Island has seen 132,000 claims for unemployment insurance filed in recent weeks.
Raimondo is taking a break from the daily updates on Easter Sunday and will return Monday with the regular news conference. The briefings will be carried live on the Governor’s Facebook page, as well as online via several local news sites.