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COVID Positive Rate in High Density Areas on the Decline: A summary of the governor’s June 17 press conference

Governor Gina Raimondo and DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott gave the COVID-19 press briefing today at 1pm.

The data is as follows: DOH reports 49 new cases since yesterday. There are 126 people in the hospital, of those 17 are in the ICU, and 13 people are intubated. Overall the governor noted hospitalizations are on a slow decline, calling it good news. DOH also reported 11 new deaths today: six people were in their 70s, two in their 80s and three were in their 90s. Nursing home deaths continue to make up the bulk of coronavirus fatalities. Nine out of today’s 11 deaths were nursing home or congregate care residents. DOH estimates 75% of overall fatalities came from those same settings.

Dr. Scott explained today nursing home cases are overall on the decline. They are well into their fourth round of cyclical testing. Such testing is open to staff and residents of congregate settings who want to volunteer. The testing schedule is as such so all staff at congregate settings are tested every 7 to 10 days. Dr. Scott also noted while there were specific nursing homes who had infection control issues prior to COVID, COVID’s high transmission rate is its own issue.

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Today the governor announced the positivity rate in high-density areas is on the decline, outlining the most impacted towns. Central Falls positivity rate has fallen into the low teens, hovering around 13%. Two weeks prior, the positive test rate was 22%. Providence has tested positive at a rate below 10% for a few days, a big comedown from the end of May when it was as high as 19%. Woonsocket is on the decline, with a positive rate of 6% today. “These numbers are a point in time, they will fluctuate,” said Raimondo. “But it is good news.”

Getting the test positive rate below 10% statewide has been a keystone of Raimondo’s COVID control plan. The information will be one piece among many pieces of data, showing how prevalent the virus is in the Ocean State. The governor credited the drop in data to the asymptomatic testing being performed statewide. She announced new test sites would be added today at four Stop and Shops, one in Cranston, one in Pawtucket, and two in Providence on Manton Ave and West River Ave. This is in addition to the 900 tests able to be performed at RIC and CCRI. All close contact workers and anyone who’s been in a large congregate setting (like the protests or the Block Island Ferry) are invited to get themselves tested. Raimondo said she could not imagine turning anyone away who wanted to get tested. Dr. Alexander-Scott said she envisions close contact industry workers getting tested once every week or two weeks. Broader asymptomatic testing would be rolling out soon.

Friday is the day the governor is expected to announce more guidance on Phase 3. Today she was asked about R1 Indoor Karting in Lincoln, which reopened last week reasoning they would be able to if Twin River was able. The governor said she was not familiar with their business model, but that DBR would go and inspect them and if they were compliant they could stay open. Raimondo reiterated any business owner confused about whether to reopen should consult reopeningri.com for regulations and guidance. If still confused, business owners should call 521-HELP or the Department of Business Regulation directly. 

The final questions put to the governor today were for comment about Juneteenth, the day commemorating the day when Union General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Texas that freed all the slaves. The governor said it was something for the state to think about, saying she hadn’t heard of it until this morning. When asked by Bill Bartholomew if the state should swap VJ Day for Juneteenth, the governor was reluctant to agree. Raimondo said it was “worthy of discussion” and compared it to the discussion about removing “Providence Plantations” from the state name. “It matters,” she said.

The next COVID press briefing is Friday at 1pm. You can watch it on Capitol TV or social media, and Motif will live tweet the governor’s comments. Our written summary will be up later that afternoon.

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