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R.I. death toll passes 300, new cases fall below 200


While the number of new cases hasn’t been under 200 since April 7, Gov. Raimondo cautions against reading too much into one day

By Madeleine List

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — The state Department of Health on Sunday reported 24 deaths from the novel coronavirus, the most reported coronavirus-related deaths in Rhode Island in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

The number of new cases reported in a single day, though, dropped below 200 for the first time since April 7.

The health department announced 188 new cases Sunday, bringing the total number of reported positive cases to 9,477. There have now been 320 fatalities from COVID19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

During her daily briefing, Gov. Gina Raimondo said she would release more information this week about the first phase of the state’s reopening, which is scheduled to begin May 9, but she told residents to continue to stay at home as much as possible and always avoid congregating in groups.

The state experienced a spike in new coronavirus cases two weeks after Easter weekend, likely because of family gatherings over the holiday, she said.

She also reminded people not to plan gatherings for Mothers Day (May 10). She said that even though the state’s stay-at-home order is scheduled to be lifted by then, visitation will still not be allowed at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals.

“We’re going to have to pay special attention to take care of our loved ones who might be much older and might have underlying conditions,” she said.

In an effort to keep personal protective equipment stocked in Rhode Island, Raimondo said that she has joined a coalition of

other governors to collaboratively acquire supplies, such as gowns, N95 masks, gloves and ventilators, on the private market.

Members of the coalition will “try to figure out how we can collaborate to do more bulk purchasing, which will keep the price down,” she said. “We’ll be competing less with one another, stabilize our supply chain and make sure that at any given time we have at least two weeks, three weeks, four weeks of PPE that we need.”

Of the 330 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 83 are in intensive care and 59 are on ventilators. Of the 24 newlyreported deaths, one person was in theirs 30s, three were in their 40s, one was in their 50s, one was in their 60s, two were in their 70s, eight were in their 80s and eight were in their 90s, according to Dr. Jim McDonald, medical director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. Eighteen of the deaths were among nursing home residents.

During a conference call with reporters after the daily press briefing, McDonald said that the drop in reported new cases on Sunday wasn’t necessarily indicative of a trend.

“We can’t read anything into one day,” he said.

But, he said, the number of tests conducted at a site operated by CVS Health were down on Saturday. The site, which does not require patients to be referred by a doctor, tested 505 people on Saturday compared with 907 on Friday. Patients who seek testing at the site must be exhibiting symptoms.

“The CVS site’s interesting to me because that’s where people self-select,” he said.

During Sunday’s briefing, McDonald also announced that Oakland Grove Health Care Center, a nursing home in Woonsocket, will become the state’s second specialty facility for COVID19 positive patients who are discharged from the hospital. The Oak Hill Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Pawtucket became the state’s first such facility last month.

McDonald said during the conference call with reporters that as of Saturday, there were about 58 people at Oakland Grove with COVID-19. He said the facility has 178 beds and that both nursing homes have capacity for new patients.

Answering questions from reporters at the end of her briefing, Raimondo said she hoped to get child-care centers up and running by June 1. Her office asked centers to submit plans for reopening by May 22.

She said that her office was also looking into ways to allow houses of worship, including churches, synagogues and mosques, to reopen under new restrictions.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence said he would like to see churches open by May 31, which Raimondo called a “reasonable goal.” But, she said, restrictions will likely include social distancing for parishioners, enhanced cleaning protocols and a prohibition on sharing materials, such a hymnals.

With temperatures reaching the 70s on Sunday, Raimondo encouraged Rhode Islanders to get outside and enjoy the weather while practicing social distancing.

McDonald said that it is okay for people to take their masks off while walking, hiking or exercising as long as no one else is around. But, he said, everyone should carry their masks on them at all times and put them on when they come across other people.

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