Governor Gina Raimondo, Department of Health director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, and Commerce RI director Stefan Pryor held the daily coronavirus press conference today at 2:30pm at The Vets.
The number of positive new COVID-19 cases since yesterday is 221. Two hundred sixty-nine people are in the hospital, 68 are in the ICU and 48 of those are on ventilators. Dr. Alexander-Scott announced 18 new fatalities. One person was in their 50s, one in their 60s, six in their 70s, six in their 80s, and four in their 90s.
The governor said today they were expanding testing aggressively in at-need areas like the inner city and marginalized communities. She acknowledged they had been testing fewer than 3,000 people a day, and she attributed this to the low-volume from new walk-in clinics that see only 50 to 60 people on a good day. Raimondo said she thinks the key is having more low-volume places to fill the gap.
She also announced they were adding two new Stop & Shop testing sites to the original four from a few weeks ago. Random Rhode Islanders will receive letters in the mail inviting them to have a PCR and serology test. If a person chooses to opt in, they can report to one of four Stop & Shop locations statewide. The two new ones the state is adding are on Manton Ave and West River St, both in Providence. The positive test rate in many marginalized communities is well above the 10% positive rate the state is aiming for.
The governor said if you are undocumented or uninsured, you should not be afraid of coming forward to be tested. No one will ask your immigration status or your insurance status. If you have confidential questions about testing, housing, quarantining or any other needs, you can call 401-462-4444 to get the support needed. Dr. Alexander-Scott pledged to release site by site data in the future, as soon as the DOH sifts through the data.
Businesses planning to reopen (and businesses that never closed) are expected to have their COVID-tackling plans in by May 18. To help struggling businesses, the state of Rhode Island is prepared to give away 500,000 surgical masks, as well as vouchers for disinfectant redeemable at Ocean State Job Lot. The governor acknowledged it was a tough time for small businesses, who are now expected to invest in more cleaning supplies and PPE than ever before.
During Q&A today, the governor said it was her hope not to keep travel restrictions and quarantines in place for the entire summer. She expects to be well into phase 3 of the economic reopening then and will be loosening many of the restrictions currently in place. She will be providing more guidance for out-of-staters renting summer homes later, no earlier than June. It is a decision Raimondo and her team hope to release with the rest of the seven states in the regional coalition of states. Guidance on local campgrounds and beaches should be available within the next few weeks from DEM.
The governor, when asked about rental assistance, said she wasn’t sure courts would reopen by the end of the month. She promised her team was working on more rental assistance and to see if a rent moratorium was possible.
Motif today asked the governor about roadblocks to training new CNAs. Dr. Alexander-Scott said virtual testing was acceptable, but said there should be no detriments to training new CNAs. Our own Michael Bilow had interviewed someone at a CNA school earlier today, and they had complained all training had stopped on March 30, with no further state guidance.
Tomorrow’s press conference returns to 1pm for the rest of the week.