PROVIDENCE – Governor Gina Raimondo said Thursday that Rhode Island is roughly three weeks away from reaching full hospital capacity because of a COVID-19 surge that has infected nearly 7,000 residents since Nov. 1.
There were 232 Rhode Islanders hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Thursday, up from 115 on Oct. 9. Raimondo said the state is preparing to open a field hospital solely for coronavirus patients in Cranston within the next couple of weeks.
Raimondo also put out a call for more health care workers, explaining that hospital staffs are currently overwhelmed by the influx of new patients. She said active or retired health care workers can visit the Skill for Rhode Island website to learn more.
“This is very real, we are in a terrible spot,” Raimondo said during an afternoon press conference. “And for those folks out there who think it’s OK to not follow the rules, who thought it was OK to have Halloween parties, you need to know that it’s costing lives.”
The state Department of Health reported 936 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the second straight day with 900 or more new cases. Seven residents died, bringing the total number of fatalities to 1,250 since March.
Raimondo was accompanied by three doctors at Thursday’s press conference, all of whom sought to paint a vivid picture of what they’re seeing.
Kent Hospital’s Dr. Laura Forman said Rhode Island’s hospitals look more like “refugee camps and battlegrounds” she has worked from than the first-class facilities residents are used to seeing.
Forman said the field hospital could be “days to weeks” from opening based on the surge in cases.
Raimondo said she will consider a “full lockdown” of Rhode Island if coronavirus cases continue to rise. She said that she expects to announce restrictions for Thanksgiving by next week, but she urged residents to stay home with their immediate families on the holiday.
“I can’t see how we won’t have a Thanksgiving lockdown,” she said.
Raimondo has repeatedly faced questions about why schools remain open as cases continue to rise, but she said there isn’t a “shred of evidence” that schools are a vector of spread. Dr. Selin Suner from Rhode Island Hospital agreed with Raimondo, explaining that the hospitals aren’t seeing large numbers of children being admitted.
The good news, Raimondo said, is that she believes a coronavirus vaccine will be available for a limited number of residents by the end of the year, and widely available by early 2021.
“Hope is on the way,” Raimondo said.