Governor Gina Raimondo, DoH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott and RIDE Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green gave the weekly COVID press conference today at 1pm.
The governor today began with COVID data. Since yesterday, DOH is reporting 76 new cases of the coronavirus. Of those, 67 people are hospitalized with the virus; five of them are in the ICU, three of them are on ventilators. DOH is reporting one new death today, a person in their 60s. That makes the total number of COVID deaths 997, with the state expecting to top 1,000 later this week. Raimondo announced when that milestone is reached, she will lower the flags to half mast at the State House and light up the building to red white and blue colors in honor of those lost to COVID.
Governor Raimondo credited habitual mask-wearing to the state’s curbing of the transmission of the virus. Inspectors over the last weekend saw 95% mask-wearing compliance with employees at restaurants and retail locations across the state, with 90% of customers complying with mask-wearing. She announced today contact tracing was showing outbreaks stemming from large backyard parties and other social gatherings. She reminded everyone to keep gatherings small, and restaurants to be more vigilant in making sure people aren’t congregating. She promised renewed strict regulations if industries couldn’t control congregations.
Testing lately has a longer turnaround time than it did about a month ago. The governor acknowledged this today in her remarks, attributing it to the surge in testing as other states have massive COVID-19 surges. She noted that the week-long turnaround time for test results is at the extreme end; the state is not near the gold standard of two to three days for getting COVID results back. Raimondo also encouraged more people to get tested; if someone has symptoms, they should call their doctor and get a test. Dr. Alexander-Scott today announced a new testing site had opened in the RI Convention Center parking garage. This is to replace the testing site at Rhode Island College. The CCRI testing site is also scheduled to be phased out over time.
Governor Raimondo today also announced she would be increasing communication around schools reopening this fall. Every Thursday at 3pm, starting tomorrow, the governor and Commissioner Infante-Green will host a virtual forum on the governor’s facebook page. The governor’s daily COVID email update on Fridays will be devoted to schools. “Don’t let anybody scare you,” said the governor. “We’re gonna follow the science here in Rhode Island.”
Today the governor and Commissioner Infante-Green were asked how students can be expected to go back to school safely even part time when school buildings falling apart was a big issue just last year. The commissioner answered that a lot of the plan would involve retrofitting a lot of the schools, and the state was going to help with it and find solutions. RIDE said today that all the school districts in RI submitted plans in the timeframe the state assigned. RIDE acknowledged some plans were better than others, and their feedback will continue until July 31, when the plans are scheduled to go public.
Today Motif asked for an update on the distance learning assessment RIDE was gathering. On June 4, answering another question from Motif, the governor stated that “RIDE is making a pretty detailed formal assessment right now… the short answer is yes. Attendance, grades, curriculum, they’re really digging into it.” Commissioner Infante-Green, when asked by Motif today if such an assessment had been done, answered that no it was not completed, leaving it open for the fall.
Motif today also asked about the governor’s response to federal agents in Portland arresting people without probable cause or identifying themselves as federal officers. The governor said it was wrong-headed policy from President Trump, motivated by politics with a goal of fear-mongering. She said it was no different than not counting undocumented immigrants in the census.