Editor's note: This story appears on our websites as part of a partnership between Beacon Communications and East Bay Newspapers to share coverage of the COVID-19 crisis.
Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that she was extending several executive orders during her daily briefing Friday afternoon, including those concerning cloth face coverings, telemedicine and quarantining.
Until July 4, Raimondo said that Rhode Islanders will continue to be required to wear a cloth face covering while out in a public – in both indoor and outdoor spaces – when unable to maintain continual social distancing, like when going out to eat or shopping at the grocery store.
“It’s just like your phone, your wallet, your purse,” she said. “You don’t leave your home without it, don’t leave your house without your mask.”
Through July 5, Raimondo will also continue to direct all Rhode Island health insurers to cover telemedicine for primary, specialty, mental and behavioral health care, as well as require that reimbursement rates stay the same as in-person office visits.
“This has been critical to break down barriers to access,” she said.
Those who have been in close proximity to or been diagnosed with COVID-19 will also need to continue to self-isolate for either 14 days or until symptom-free, respectively, Raimondo added, an order that also has been extended until July 5.
Raimondo also extended the state of emergency until that day, reasoning that it would allow her administration the flexibility they need to swiftly respond to the continuing crisis and keep federal resources accessible.
Protesting during a pandemic
Raimondo took some time during Friday’s briefing to address the peaceful protests going on in the state concerning the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. She said a number of them were planned for this weekend, including one in Providence later that day and at Colt State Park in Bristol on Saturday.
“I think at this moment in time in America’s history, it’s vital that you make your voices heard and stand up against injustices,” she said.
But at the same time, she urged Rhode Islanders to keep following the COVID-19 safety protocols, and to “think twice” if there is a high-risk loved one at home. She said volunteers from the state and Department of Health will be present to pass out masks and hand sanitizer to those who need it, as well as providing information about the virus.
“I’m just asking you to be safe and follow the rules,” she said.
Though Raimondo said that everything she knew about the upcoming protests indicated that they would be peaceful, one reporter noted in the question-and-answer period that “actions speak louder than words” – outside, there are curfews and alerts in place, helicopters flying overheard, windows boarded up, barricades in front of the Statehouse and the presence of police in body armor with weapons and the National Guard.
While she said that the barricades should be open by the time the Providence protest begins at 4:30 pm, Raimondo assured that they were attempting to “strike the right balance” between allowing peaceful demonstrations during the day and protecting against possible violence at night.
“We know that we’re living in an uncertain time, and we need to be ready for what might come,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo reminded Rhode Islanders about the #BeKindRI initiative led by United Way, encouraging acts of kindness over the weekend – checking in with loved ones, delivering groceries, refraining from showing frustration – and sharing it on social media when possible.
“One act of kindness is great; a million is even greater,” she said.
Gina Raimondo and Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott provided a breakdown of the latest data, stating that:
Of those who died, Alexander-Scott said that three people were in their 60s, three were in their 70s, six were in their 80s, three were in their 90s and one was over 100.
But on a positive note, Raimondo said that the state tested a record number of nearly 4,500 people yesterday, and that the test positive rate was just below three percent.
“That’s excellent,” Raimondo said.
Briefings schedule moving forward
Now that Rhode Island is in Phase II of its reopening, Raimondo said that starting Monday, she will move to holding her briefings just three days a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – at 1 pm. She encouraged everyone to continue tuning in and that important announcements will be coming next week.