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Eight more Rhode Islanders have died as a result of COVID-19, Gov. Gina Ramondo said in a 1 p.m. briefing Sunday, and she implored residents to take social distancing seriously as the virus enters its “rapid spread” phase.
Those who died ranged in age from their 60s to their 90s, and seven had been nursing home residents. Three lived at the Golden Crest nursing home in North Providence and one at Oak Hill in Pawtucket. Their deaths bring the state’s total to 25.
Raimondo also reported 116 new cases of the virus since Saturday, bringing the state’s total to 922. However, she said she expects that number to rise significantly in the coming weeks.
“This is about to get very bad, “ she said. “There will be thousands of people in the hospital, many, many more deaths (and) a lot more pain and suffering. We’re climbing up the curve. We’re probably several weeks away from our peak.”
"I can't tell you exactly how bad it's going to be because that depends on you and me."
Given that, the state’s social distancing and safety requirements need to be heeded as closely as possible. She said there are too many reports of heavy traffic at grocery stores, Lowe’s, Walmart and other big box stores, and that is unacceptable:
“I don’t know what you’re thinking at this point,” she said. “I’m not just asking you to avoid big crowds because I want to. This is based on fact. If you look at the experience of Germany … frankly even other states … where they’ve been very vigilant, you see it in the data. Fewer people dying, fewer in the hospital, fewer who get sick.”
Those who continue to go out too often, or for non-essential reasons, are hurting their neighbors, she said:
“By doing that, you are endangering your life and the lives of Rhode Islanders,” she said. “The last thing I want to do is hurt the local economy any more. But if we don’t start getting serious … then I’m going to have to shut everything down.”
The state’s testing capabilities are growing quickly, and those who think they’re sick should get a referral from their doctor and schedule a test at one of the state’s six drive-up testing sites, the governor said.
While the state currently has the capacity to test 1,000 people per day, “I hope to go from 1,000 to 1,500 too 2,000. We want to start collecting accurate data, so that means ramping up testing.”
Residents who aren’t insured or have no doctor still have options, and regardless of their status, “it’s in everyone’s interest” to get tested.
“For those of you who might not have insurance … I still want you to go and get tested,” she said. “If you’ve lost your job, you probably qualify for Medicaid, so go sign up.”
There are other options, including all of the state’s community health centers, the Rhode Island Free Clinic in Providence, and Clinica Esperanza in Providence.
Medicare members who don’t have transportation to a testing site can schedule a ride through MTM (Medical Transportation Management), by calling 855-330-9131.
However, "please only use that as a last resort,” Gov. Raimondo said. “If there’s any way you can get yourself a ride … please do that. It’s not going to work if they suddenly have a rush of phone calls. We won't be able to handle capacity.”
Finally, she said, those who are concerned about their immigration status also do not need to fear visiting a testing site.