Governor Gina Raimondo, DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott and DOA Director Brett Smiley gave the press briefing today at 1pm at The Vets Auditorium.
First today’s COVID data: DOH reports 84 new cases. There are 141 currently in the hospital with the virus. Of those, 28 people are in the intensive care unit, and 17 of those people are on ventilators. “Another encouraging day of data,” said the governor, noting it continues to trend downward. There are 10 new deaths since yesterday: three people were in their 60s, three in their 70s, one person was in their 80s and three were in their 90s.
The big announcement today was money for landlords. Governor Gina Raimondo announced money from the rental assistance fund would be used to grant landlords $2,000 in a first signing bonus if they took a family with housing vouchers. Income-based discrimination is still legal in the Ocean State; attempts to outlaw it have stalled in the RI House of Representatives. Landlords can net an additional $500 for each additional family they agree to rent to, and up to $2,000 to help with moving and upgrade costs. The campaign is called Housing Now, and works in tandem with United Way and the RI Realtors Association.
The governor announced earlier this week that workers in close contact industries would be available to get a free COVID test. The governor is hoping it will instill confidence in the Ocean State economy. Today, the testing is open to bus drivers and restaurant workers. It is not open to taxi or rideshare drivers.
DOH released the results from the first round of serology tests. Last month the state invited 5,000 randomly selected Rhode Islanders to select test sites to test for antibodies. Motif reported earlier today ethnic disparities in these tests show Latinos in RI have 3.7 times sero-prevalence against COVID-19 compared to the overall population. Dr. Alexander-Scott stressed today that more testing was needed, and we were nowhere near understanding what the data means.
The governor today spoke a little more to schooling. If the current data trends for COVID continue, Raimondo expects having all children to return to school in person every day be a reachable possibility. “That should be the goal,” she said. She understood that superintendents would be nervous after her announcement on Wednesday, but should be eager to get to work. Rhode Island school districts will be receiving additional money separate from the CARES Fund. According to the governor and Director Smiley, the federal government gave $42 million from the CARES Act separate from the main stimulus fund of $1.25 billion to handle school issues. Superintendents will have extra funding to handle extra busses and drivers if needed, as social distancing on busses is a main obstacle. Raimondo said today that the funding formula for schools could change as everything is on the table in cuts as state lawmakers go longer without seeing relief from the federal government.
Columbus statues and the name Providence Plantations are in the news again this week. When asked, Governor Raimondo said she supported a discussion about what to do about Columbus statues, given the decapitation of one in Boston earlier this week. The governor also said removing Providence Plantations from the official state name should go on the ballot again in the fall.
Governor Raimondo today announced next week she would begin to outline what Phase 3 would look like. She would not, however, be able to give a definitive start date. The next press conference is next Monday at 1pm. You can watch it on Capitol TV or live on most major social media platforms.