Governor Gina Raimodno and Dr. Jim McDonald from RIDOH held the Friday COVID press conference at 1pm today in The Vets.
The COVID data breakdown for the Ocean State is as follows: DOH is reporting 124 new positive cases of COVID-19. There are 222 people currently hospitalized with the virus, 53 of those people are in the ICU. Of those people in intensive care, 36 are on ventilators. Since yesterday there have been 22 new fatalities. One person was in their 40s, two in their 60s, five in their 70s, eight in their 80s, and six in their 90s. A test site locator is now online at DOH’s website. Provide your ZIP code and it will show you a list of the closest test sites to your home.
CVS, the governor announced, is adding 10 new drive-thru test sites to various locations around the state. A person makes the appointment online, then proceeds to the designated CVS drive-thru where a CVS employee hands them a testing kit. Rhode Islanders will then swab themselves in the car and drop the completed test in a secure bin where they will be delivered to a lab for processing. Results can be expected in two to three days as opposed to the usual 10 minutes at other test sites.
Today the governor outlined what indoor dining, personal care services and youth sports would look like in June. For indoor dining, customers will need to make a reservation, providing their name and contact information to the restaurant. In Phase 2, a person cannot just show up. Self service stations such as hot food bars, salad bars and buffets would not be allowed to open. There is no standing service, including at bars. Bars that don’t serve food would not be permitted to reopen in Phase 2. “We have to make sure we don’t allow congregation,” said Raimondo.
Personal care services will look similar. If you want a haircut, you will have to make a reservation. You will be expected to provide your name and contact information to the business. Social distancing will be observed unless you are the one getting your haircut. Everyone must wear face masks. Waiting areas will be discouraged. “Show up at your time of appointment, get your haircut and leave,” said the governor.
Starting on Monday in Phase 2, Rhode Island will allow most youth sports again. Kids should remain in the same stable groups, similar to the state’s summer camp policy. Social distancing and cleaning of shared equipment must be observed, as should the wearing of face masks. League and tournaments and instances where athletes travel to play against other teams will not be allowed, but the governor is hoping to relax that restriction in July. “Focus on practices, scrimmages and games in stable groups of 15,” she said. The CDC guidance will post on reopeningri.com as will the state guidance.
Governor Raimondo noted that kids aren’t affected as much as adults by the virus. She did note children come into contact with parents, coaches, grandparents and other adults and could be a risk for spreading the virus.
Raimondo also announced today the state would be providing an additional $5 million for rental assistance for low-income renters impacted by the pandemic. Qualifying at-need renters can receive up to $5,000 in grants to cover back rent and associated fees. Interested parties should go to housinghelpri.com or call 211 to apply. Raimondo said today this was not a permanent solution and wanted to find a mediated arrangement between landlords and tenants. While courts are reopening next week, the governor today also announced state courts will not process any COVID-related evictions until July 1. The cutoff date is any eviction-related issue before March 17. Anything after that date that is related to COVID will be granted the month reprieve.
Steve Ahlquist of Uprise RI asked the governor during Q&A that estimates showed $20 million would cover rent for at-need Ocean State residents from April thru June, and that RI frequently ranked very low when it came to issues of rental assistance. The governor answered that her numbers showed it would be less than $20 million but more than $5 million to cover everyone, and she wasn’t interested in a short-term spending solution but wanted a mediated solution between renters and landlords.
The governor today was asked about the high deaths while new cases and hospitalizations were declining. Raimondo stated deaths per capita were lower than other states, but the vast majority of case concentrations were in state nursing homes. She said that the Ocean State is overdependent on nursing homes as opposed to home care. Governor Raimondo also repeated that she could not find a state that was doing better. When a reporter asked if Florida was doing better on nursing homes, the governor replied she could not speak to Florida and would have to look into it.
Dr. McDonald today during Q&A stressed the differences between flu and COVID-19. He said that COVID-19 was a syndrome that causes massive inflammation throughout the body. Compounded with some residents who have some degree of organ failure (liver failure, diabetes, etc) and other comorbidities, you find many people passing with these underlying conditions.
“We don’t have 22 deaths a day from the flu,” said Dr. McDonald. He also stated he was not confident if a vaccine was coming at all, but emphasized to let science be science and let the process work itself out.
According to the governor, Rhode Island has only spent approximately 10% of the $1.25 billion funds allocated from the CARES Act. Raimondo said they had spent up to $500 million in commitments and was looking to make the money last until next year. Today she and Director Brett Smiley from the Department of Administration announced a transparency portal would soon be online to allow Rhode Islanders to view how the state has spent the federal money. The governor today admitted she was holding some of it back for the moment to see if the federal government would let it help plug the $800 million deficit the state government is facing after the crisis.
Tomorrow’s press conference is at 1pm and Motif will have our summary online sometime later afternoon. There are no press conferences over the weekend currently scheduled, the next one after Friday is currently on Monday at 1pm. You can watch online on local news, Facebook Live or Capitol TV.