Today Governor Raimondo and DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott announced 325 new cases of COVID-19, the biggest single day increase since the weekend. “We wish it were lower, we wish it was going down,” said the governor. “It should not alarm you. It’s a reflection of the fact we’re making a big effort to test many at-risk communities.”
The governor confirmed the stay-at-home order would be allowed to expire tomorrow. Starting Saturday, non-critical retailers can open. Restaurants will not be reopening for inside or outside dining just yet, but starting Saturday they can also sell mixed drinks with takeout orders. For complete information on new business rules and regulations on a sector-by-sector basis, see reopeningri.com
“If we have learned as a state, as a nation, as a world, one thing about this virus,” said the governor, “it’s that if you stay ahead of it, ahead of the curve, you can control its spread and you can go about your life.” Raimondo announced today the three day moving average they use to determine whether the economy can proceed to reopen showed a 15% decrease (five less admissions) in hospital admissions a day versus two weeks ago. In terms of new cases, the three day moving average dropped 25% over the last two weeks, for an average decrease of 95 cases per day. Rhode Island is meeting both metrics, trending flat.
Ninety percent of contact tracing is completed within a 48-hour window. The team is reaching 90% of contacts within the first 24 hours. The state required as part of the reopening at least 30% of ICU beds be open and a sufficient amount of PPE be on hand. Hospitals across the state have 35% of ICU beds open, and enough surgical masks and face shields to last a month. The supply of N95 masks and gloves is enough to last several weeks. There is a system in place for facilities that can wash and sanitize PPE so it can be reused if needed. The state is working to roll out early warning systems via rapidly expanding testing throughout the state.
Hospitals have submitted detailed surge plans and are ready to start performing elective and non-critical procedures on Monday. Westerly Hospital will start on May 13, and South County Hospital already began doing them this week. Rhode Islanders can expect some parks to reopen this weekend with a complete list on the DEM website. Social gatherings on Saturday onward will still be limited to five people. This and many other of the previous executive orders are limited to May 22, when her office will revisit them. People coming from outside the state still have to self-quarantine for 14 days if coming to visit or stay. However, anyone going over the border for necessities (gas, food, medicine etc) will not be expected to follow this rule.
Some orders are extended to June 5: visitors from outside the country must still self quarantine for 14 days. Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 must quarantine and isolate until medically cleared as based on DOH guidance. Any one who has had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 must isolate and quarantine for 14 days. The time police have to complete a background check is still extended from 7 to 30 days. Burdensome regulations regarding insurance are also relaxed. Telehealth is still mandated to be covered entirely by insurers. Regulations regarding medication coverage, prior authorizations, network changes and so on have been relaxed and extended until June 5.
Phase 1 of Governor Raimondo’s plan allows for a place of worship to have groups of five: essentially a videographer to stream any service and a few people. Drive-in services are acceptable as long as people stay in the car. Funerals are allowed to have a maximum of 10 people as long as those 10 people remain socially distant; complete details are at reopeningri.com.
Under questioning from Motif, the governor was unable to say if bars and restaurants would be fully operational by July. “This thing changes weekly. Probably unlikely, but I don’t know,” said Governor Raimondo. “It all depends on our experience. That’s why we wanna take it slow.”
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott also spent some time explaining why herd immunity was a non-starter for Rhode Island. The Ocean State does not know enough about the virus, and attempting herd immunity or infecting as many people as possible until natural immunity is acquired in the entire population, would “cause significant harm at a population level.” Dr Alexander-Scott stressed that we don’t know enough about COVID-19, and it’s not clear if antibodies are forming against the disease or if they’re effective.
The governor’s daily press conference will take place at 1pm for the rest of the week.