PROVIDENCE -- Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced that Rhode Island will move into Phase 2 on Monday to continue reopening the economy.
Since the stay-at-home order expired May 8 and some retail stores reopened and restaurants could offer outdoor dining, state health officials had been watching for signs that the coronavirus was spreading. Instead, they say, hospitalizations are declining even more than the metrics they’d set to launch Phase 2, the governor said.
“We’ve taken the right steps,” Raimondo said Friday afternoon. “We’re in a much better phase and we can move with confidence into Phase 2.”
One indicator was hospital capacity. They’d hoped for fewer than 70 percent beds to be filled with COVID-19 patients by this point; there are actually fewer than 30 percent of beds filled. Where the state hoped to see fewer than 30 new hospitalizations a day, the data shows hospitalizations have been on a decline for a month. The rate of spread is at .7, which is a measure of how quickly the infection is spreading. Hospitalizations are dropping, instead of doubling every 30 days.
In comparison, a month and a half ago, they were doubling every three days, Raimondo said.
While this is good news, health officials are watching to see if the metrics change in the new phase, and if they need to put on the brakes, the governor said.
Rhode Island will reopen gyms, restaurants, barber shops, and hairdressers on Monday under new rules and restrictions. Houses of worship can open Saturday, at 25 percent capacity.
Twin River Casino will open June 8 by invitation only, requiring masks and social distancing, Raimondo said.
But, Raimondo said, there are still no visitors allowed at nursing homes or assisted living facilities, whose residents have suffered the most under this virus. “This is a really tough call, but the situation on nursing homes is not stable,” Raimondo said. “Everyone who lives in a nursing home lives in a high-risk category.”
Visitors may be allowed in Phase 3, which could begin in July depending on how Phase 2 progresses.
The state just completed its second round of testing of staff and residents at all nursing homes and are underway with the third cycle now, said Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. Between last week and this week, she said, the number of new resident cases in long-term care facilities decreased from about 575 to 370.
As the state increases the number of COVID-19 test sites, the positive daily numbers are showing a decline.
There were 122 new cases reported on Friday, the day after 3,226 people were tested. That brings Rhode Island’s positive cases to 14,635, out of 146,355 total tests since March 1.
The death toll rose to 693, with 16 new fatalities reported Friday. The deaths include two people in their 50s, one in their 60s, six people in their 70s, five in their 80s and two in their 90s, said Alexander-Scott.
There are 219 people hospitalized, with 47 in intensive care, and 33 on ventilators.
Raimondo said that 38,000 people have so far downloaded the CRUSH COVID RI app, which provides access to resources during the public health crisis, including a location diary that helps users identify the people and places they are in contact with and a symptom checking survey.