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.
As the country prepares to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo reminded people that large gatherings are still not allowed and the guidelines governing travel are still in place.
During her press conference on Thursday, Raimondo told people that she is hoping people take full advantage of the good weather forecast for the upcoming holiday weekend. But she quickly countered that with a message to limit all social gatherings to five people or fewer and for anyone who is traveling outside the state to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return.
A reporter asked the governor about the state's unemployment rate, which now hovers at 17 percent. That figure, said the reporter, is higher than the national average.
Raimondo said Rhode Island's economy is very dependent on the service industries which have been particularly hard hit. She said that she is going to stand the economy back up and get everyone back to work, although it might not be in a job they previously held.
The governor also spent time speaking about the new Crush Covid RI app. She said 25,000 Rhode Islanders have downloaded the app, which offers resources in the fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But reporters told Raimondo that some people are concerned that the list of contacts on their phones would be shared. The governor said that is not true, and that the only information that will be made available to the state would be the location log, and that is only if people allow the state access to that.
She also said she has already downloaded the app to her personal phone.
Raimondo reminded people that summer camps will be allowed this summer in Rhode Island. She said camps will need to follow certain restrictions, but that they serve an important purpose for children. She said kids have been "cooped up" for a long time — she said that children's mental health is just as important as their physical health, adding that summer camps can go a long way to benefiting a child's emotional and social well-being, as well as physical health.
The governor said new guidelines to camps have been posted to the reopeningri.com website. Some of those guidelines are limiting groups to 15 people, and keeping kids in the same groups throughout the camps.
She also said there will be rules about avoiding large groups during drop-offs and pick-ups; sanitizing areas; hand-washing; and wearing masks.
Raimondo said camp organizers will need to submit a plan to the state detailing how they will follow the restrictions in place.
"We're going to work with you to get it right," she said.
Nursing homes response team
Raimondo spoke about some of the work taking place to make nursing homes and other congregate care settings safer.
She said the state has created a special response team that includes members of the Rhode Island Army National Guard. That team, she said, has been contacted by 44 facilities (nursing homes, group homes and other facilities) across the state representing thousands of residents. She said the special response team has helped with training for nursing home staff members on how to put on and take off PPE, and they have also helped coordinate testing for those facilities. In addition, the team has helped coordinate other resources for those facilities.
Raimondo said the state is now committed to testing every staff member at every nursing home in Rhode Island every 7 to 10 days. She said the data is crystal clear — that the population of people hit hardest by the coronavirus are the sickest, most frail people.
We're going to take good care of them, she said.
A reporter asked the governor her thoughts on the nearby Connecticut casinos reopening soon, and whether she was concerned about people traveling to that state to visit the casinos and then returning to Rhode Island.
She said she was disappointed, adding that Rhode Island casinos will not reopen on June 1. She said people could expect to see the casinos in Rhode Island reopening in mid- to late-June or July, and maybe by appointment only.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the RI Department of Health, shared the most recent coronavirus-related data. She said there were 18 additional Covid-19-associated fatalities to report. Other data included:
• 189 new cases to report;
• 2,737 people tested yesterday;
• 254 people currently hospitalized;
• 56 are in the ICU;
• 41 are on a ventilator.