A Sobering Picture: A summary of the governor’s December 10 press conference

Governor Gina Raimondo, DOH Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, and Dr. Philip Chan from DOH gave the weekly COVID-19 press briefing today at 1pm.

Daily cases continue to surge in Rhode Island, with 948 new cases since yesterday. The percent positive rate, a key metric that the governor’s team is watching closely, came in at 7% out of the 13,598 tests. There are 48 people in the ICU, 25 people are intubated on ventilators. DOH also reports 14 additional deaths today, bringing the total fatalities from COVID-19 in Rhode Island to 1,498.

“The data continues to be a sobering picture,” said the governor. She went on, “On a typical day, we are seeing 60 people admitted to the hospital; that is more than we’ve ever seen. Much higher than our peak in the spring.” Raimondo acknowledged that the Ocean State is #1 worldwide in new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people.

State officials announced today the pause would be extended an additional week, now scheduled to end on December 20. The governor said she was monitoring mobility data, gleaned from Rhode Islanders’ phones, to show them how often they are moving around the state. Rhode Island’s traffic volume, according to data shared with Motif, shows a significant decline in mobility peaking before Thanksgiving and sharply declining in the weeks after.

Businesses that applied for financial aid from the state government will receive an additional check to cover the new third week of the pause. State officials said businesses that applied for the grants will receive it automatically, and the amount will be half of what it was for the first check. Businesses who have yet to apply for these government aid grants have until Monday at midnight to apply. 

Governor Raimondo shared some of the state restrictions that will be in place after the pause. While most guidance will remain the same come December 21st, some restrictions can be expected to be loosened. Indoor dining will have its capacity limits lifted to 50%. Venues of assembly can open at 25% capacity, capped at a maximum of 125 people. Gyms, sports facilities, and other indoor recreation facilities can reopen with the limitation of 1 person per 150 sq ft. Plans for 2021 will be detailed in the first press conference in January.

Dr. Chan of DOH spoke today about vaccine preparation and readiness. The rollout will happen in four phases. In phase 1, projected to last from now until February, the state will be distributing the vaccine to high risk healthcare workers, first responders and long-term care facility residents. A second group includes people with two or more serious comorbidity conditions and older adults living in crowded, congregate settings. 

Starting in February to April, vaccines will be extended to K-12 teachers, school staff, child care workers, critical workers in high-risk settings, people with moderate comorbid conditions, people and staff in homeless shelters and group homes, incarcerated or detained people and all older adults. Phases three and four ranging from April to June will see young adults, children, workers in other critical industries and everyone else getting vaccinated. 

Dr. Chan said he expected the state to get 32,000 doses a month as soon as both vaccines are approved, calling it the beginning of the end of the pandemic. Rhode Islanders could start receiving the vaccine as early as next week. Additionally, Dr. Alexander-Scott announced today the amount of time a person has to quarantine is cut down to 10 days for most people, referring to CDC guidance released last week.