Editor's note: This story appears on our websites as part of a new partnership between Beacon Communications and East Bay Newspapers to share coverage of the COVID-19 crisis.
Gov. Gina Raimondo announced today an aggressive new program to gather information about anyone traveling from New York to Rhode Island, in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
During her daily press briefing, Raimondo said members of the Rhode Island National Guard will be positioned at bus stations and train stations and gathering information from all people arriving from New York. The governor also said the Rhode Island State Police will begin stopping all passenger vehicles with New York license plates and recording information from those inside the vehicles.
The program is in response to the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the New York metropolitan area, said the governor, who added that nearly half of all the cases in the U.S. are located in that area.
The restrictions imposed by the governor are part of an executive order she planned to sign later in the day on Thursday. Also included in that order is a mandate that all people traveling from New York to Rhode Island self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Raimondo said the information gathered by the state police and the National Guard will only be used for health department contact tracing. It will not be shared with other agencies for any purpose.
33 new cases reported
Also during Thursday's press conference, Raimondo announced that there are 33 new cases of coronavirus in Rhode Island, bringing the state's total to 165.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Department of Health, said that at least 10 of the newly reported cases are people who are in their fifties. She said officials are seeing more cases reported in more heavily-populated communities, such as Providence, Cranston and Warwick.
"We know the virus is clearly here," she said.
Alexander-Scott said there are currently 23 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus in Rhode Island, including nine in ICUs.
Alexander-Scott also re-emphasized the need for people to take the necessary steps to reduce the spread of the virus. She said anyone feeling sick or with symptoms should be staying home and isolating within that home. She said people who are in need of medical attention should call their doctor and not show up unannounced at the doctor's office.
Again, she said keeping people who are sick at home is the best way to reduce the spread of the virus.
Raimondo announced a new program bringing free technical support to businesses in Rhode Island. She said the support is being offered by some of Rhode Island top tech companies, and will be available via teleconference or over the phone.
The governor also said she is aware how the economic decisions she is making are impacting small businesses throughout the state. She welcomed the news of a stimulus package signed by Congress recently, and reassured people that she is working hard to get to a point where she can re-open the economy and get small businesses the help they need.
Raimondo said Rhode Island needs to ramp up its testing for coronavirus.
She said the goal is to be running 1,000 tests a day by next Thursday. She said the state is currently running a little less than half that amount each day.
She said the state needs to be running 1,000 tests a day before officials can consider re-opening the economy.
Praise and reassurance
State officials took time to praise the good work happening around the state. Raimondo specifically mentioned the distance learning that public schools started this week. She also spoke about the members of the Rhode Island National Guard.
She said that while the virus is fast, the state's response has also been swift.
"We are ahead of this virus in Rhode Island," she said.