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. For full audio of the governor's follow-up conference call with reporters, click here.
At her Tuesday, April 28, coronavirus briefing from the State House, Gov. Gina Raimondo said while the numbers of newly reported cases locally are holding steady, Rhode Islanders must continue to adhere to her stay-at-home order if it can be lifted as planned in the coming weeks.
Raimondo said she appreciates the efforts of residents to date, adding “it’s clearly working … it’s clearly saving lives.” She continued, as of Tuesday the “fight to bring down the infection rate was going well” and “I think I’ll able to lift the order on May 8, which will be really exciting for all of us.”
However, she cited a notable increase of both foot traffic in stores and of motorists on roads as a concern, saying “it’s something we don’t want to see.”
Noting Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker had extended his stay-at-home there through the middle of next month, Gov. Raimondo implored people over the next 10 days to stay the course here in Rhode Island.
“I hope and plan to announce that on May 9 the stay-at-home order will expire, but I won’t do it if we’re not ready,” Raimondo said.
Director of Health Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott provided the latest update on COVID-19 cases, reporting 218 new positive tests. As of Wednesday, 266 patients were hospitalized with 84 in intensive care and 55 on ventilators.
Alexander-Scott told of six additional deaths, people ranging in age from 50-90. Of those, five resided in nursing homes and the other resided in a congregate living setting.
Health care notes
The governor announced a new executive order related to several aspects of health care, remaining in effect through May 27.
She said the need for the order, which relaxes some “burdensome” regulations, was especially urgent as a means of supporting professionals in the field. Raimondo said it’s intended so healthcare professionals “don’t have to jump through hoops, cut through excessive red tape with providers to give patients care they need.”
Aspects of the order are as follows:
The governor, while thanking the insurance industry for its cooperation during the pandemic, said she will renew the decree if necessary at the end of next month.
Raimondo announced a new partnership with the tech company SurveyMonkey, which is intended to help build a database on daily symptoms as well as the affects of the coronavirus on particular population sets throughout the state.
She said while it is opt-in only, she would encourage any patient contacted to participate. The data gathered will be “critical to safely reopening economy,” Raimondo added. “It will help us keep you healthy.”
The governor, who previously gave a 90-day extension of Department of Motor Vehicle-related issues for those residents with March and April due dates, said the same concessions will be made for those whose registrations, licenses, etc., expire in May.
Also, she said she will have an update later this week or early next on guidance surrounding the reopening of other state and municipal offices.
The governor reminded people of her concerns last week over the growing deficit of PPE (personal protective equipment), particularly gowns, for healthcare workers throughout the system, but was gratified by the action of a nearby company to meet those needs.
Saying one of the “most encouraging things to me throughout crisis is how people have pulled together,” Raimondo praised the contribution of Rhode Islanders Charlie and Owen Merrow, owners of the Merrow Sewing Machine Co. in Fall River, for producing an initial run of 3,000 industry standard gowns.
The governor added, “We’ve ordered more than a half million more gowns, and I expect that supply will hold us in good stead for months to come.”
Of the questions posed to officials Tuesday, one pertained to how they are forming their decision to reopen the state?
Raimondo said a community mitigation team has been composed of state administrators and DOH employees who are in daily contact with experts from Brown and Johns Hopkins universities.
The governor said the “guiding principal” of those involved is the connection between economic and personal health and that officials are attempting to find the proper “balance.”
Asked about testing benchmarks during reopening, Raimondo said the keys are the ability to test asymptomatic people within 24 hours, establishing contract tracing within 24 to 48 hours and setting up a mobile system. The governor said it will be more about speed and effectiveness, not about a total daily number of tests conducted.
Another question dealt with expected seating requirements for restaurants, bars, gyms and other like businesses when the stay-at-home order is lifted.
The governor said she has heard from those industries and noted the state is willing to work with them to make it feasible to reopen, adding “we may provide additional support … I’m open to it.”
The governor’s Wednesday, April 29, briefing will take place at 2:30 p.m. rather than the usual time of 1 p.m.