PROVIDENCE - Governor Gina Raimondo said Wednesday she fears Rhode Island residents will “throw caution to the wind” during the holiday weekend, leading to a spike in coronavirus cases later this month.
Raimondo said the state plans to provide 1,000 masks each to every city and town as they host Fourth of July celebrations, and workers from the Department Of Environmental Management will hand out masks at public beaches and parks throughout the weekend.
Raimondo also reminded the owners of bars and restaurants to follow the state’s social distancing regulations, and warned that she’ll have to close those establishments if they don’t show better compliance. She said roughly 18 percent of bars inspected last weekend were not following all of the rules.
“I’m worried because I see the experiences of other states,” Raimondo said during an afternoon press conference, pointing to states like Texas and Arizona, which are seeing their largest outbreaks to date.
The Department of Health reported Wednesday that the state saw 27 new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total to 16,853 since March 1. Six more residents died from the virus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 956.
Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said 720 of Rhode Island’s coroanvirus-related deaths have been been tied to nursing homes, and 25 were associated with assisted care facilities.
Raimondo acknoweldged that the coronavirus has forced the state to rethink the way that long-term care services are delivered, and said the state will continue to provide additional support to nursing homes while also working to make it easier for residents to find home-based solutions for their healthcare.
She said the state providing additional funding to nursing homes for personal protection equipment and cleaning supplies, as well as bonuses to nursing home workers. But she also said the state is going to ramp up inspections of nursing homes to ensure that they are safe.
“We’re providing the support, but we’re also going to be asking for increased compliance, accountability, and more inspections,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo said she will not hold coronavirus press conferences on Friday or Monday because of the Fourth of July holiday, and will resume her regular updates on July 8.