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Governor Raimondo Stresses a Slow Pace as the State Reopens: A summary of the governor’s May 8 press conference

Governor Gina Raimondo and RIDOH director Nicole Alexander-Scott gave the daily COVID-19 press conference today at 1pm.

There are 249 new positive cases today and 11 new deaths. The fatalities include two people in their 50s, six in their 70s, two in their 80s and one in their 90s. That list includes one death from the RI Veterans home, adding to the two fatalities from yesterday.

Raimondo’s stay-at-home order will expire tonight and be officially lifted tomorrow. The governor reiterated the need for going slow and keep the changes incremental. She advised people not to congregate over the weekend, saying it’s not the time to visit loved ones and expand your social circle. Gatherings will still be limited to five people once the stay-at-home order is lifted. 

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The governor used today’s press conference to talk about compliance with the new business and social regulations, including mandatory face coverings in public and social distancing. “We’re not out to get anybody.” she said, “We’re not out to be heavy handed in enforcement. We’re out to help you keep you and your family safe, and keep your business open.” Non-critical retail will be allowed to open starting Saturday. Bars, restaurants and the hospitality industry will have to wait a little longer before more guidance from the state government is available. No word yet on when restaurants could soft open with outside dining. There will be inspections to make sure businesses are complying with new state restrictions, with fines or a shutdown for any businesses found noncompliant. There will also be penalties and fines for individuals not following mask or social distancing protocols. Readers seeking complete information on any sector of the economy should refer to reopeningri.com

Governor Raimondo stated the Ocean State was unlikely to see a big spike in cases over the weekend, stressing that it takes two weeks for behaviors to be reflected in hospitalization data. When asked about her response to police unions refusing to enforce her executive orders regarding masks, the governor said she was unconcerned, saying state police would enforce if local law enforcement failed to do so.

During the post-press conference follow-up call with local media, Governor Raimondo acknowledged the tough budget situation ahead. While declining to go into specifics, she said, “It’s gonna be really hard, it’s gonna be brutal. It’s gonna be the hardest budget any of us will have to manage through.” The governor stated everything was on the table regarding budgetary cuts. State government is currently in a holding pattern awaiting to see what kind of relief money will come in the next federal stimulus package. The governor expects to know more from Congress around Memorial Day. “There’s so much unknown,” she said.

Last month, the governor signed an executive order granting broad legal immunity to nursing homes and hospitals for the duration of the crisis. “We feel it makes sense to provide some immunity,” Governor Raimondo said of her decision. “But now that hospitals are going back to business as usual starting Monday, I don’t think it makes sense to still have the broad immunity provided them.” While hospitals can expect a narrowed immunity going forward, nursing homes will retain the broad definition provided by the governor’s original executive order.

The governor also announced the daily press conferences would no longer be an everyday occurrence. Press conferences will be held Monday through Friday starting next week. Tomorrow is the governor’s last weekend press conference unless some sort of urgent event occurs. She is filming a Mother’s Day message to be broadcast Sunday, and will start having local reporters in the room again starting next week; however, only five local reporters will be allowed.

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