PROVIDENCE — Gov. Gina M. Raimondo on Monday signed a declaration creating a state of emergency in Rhode Island as the state continues to respond to COVID-19.
The declaration will allow the state to access additional resources, such as mobilizing the National Guard for support if it becomes necessary to do so.
The Department of Labor and Training also filed emergency regulations to expand access to Unemployment and Temporary Disability Insurance should citizens need to take time off from work to recover from the illness should they become infected, or care for a family member who may become infected.
As of press time, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rhode Island stands at five, including two new cases identified late Tuesday through testing at the R.I. Department of Health, with 53 individuals testing negative for the virus, while six test results still pending.
“This isn’t a time for panic,” the governor said.
“It is, however, a time for action,” she added, noting “we fully expect more cases.”
Appearing along with Gov. Raimondo at a Monday afternoon press conference at the R.I. Department of Health to announce the emergency declarations, state Director of Health Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott announced a number of new measures to keep nursing home residents safe.
COVID-19 appears to have an especially severe impact among those 60 and older, especially those with underlying health conditions, although younger people can also become infected with the illness.
“Early data show that older adults are twice as likely to experience serious illness from COVID-19, and nursing home residents may be especially vulnerable,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott. “It is absolutely critical that people not enter nursing homes if they are sick or who have recently traveled to a place with widespread community COVID-19 transmission.”
Under the new guidelines, nursing homes are now asked to limit the times when visitors can enter their facilities and refrain from admitting visitors who are younger than 18 years of age. They are also asked to only allowing residents to leave their grounds for medical appointments, and to actively screening visitors, staff, vendors, entertainers and anyone else who enters for illness and recent travel history. Those who are ill, or have traveled internationally in the last 14 days will not be allowed to visit.
Late Tuesday, Mary Beth Daigneault, administrator of the diocesan St. Clare Newport elder care and assisted living facility, announced that limited visiting hours were now in effect, with non-medical leaves of absence for residents not recommended at this time.
"Visitation restrictions may be lifted or become more stringent based on the activity in the state and the fluid nature of this situation," Daigneault said in a statement.
All Rhode Island residents who have traveled anywhere internationally (or anywhere overnight in the U.S.) in the last 14 days, are asked to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. These symptoms include fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
For people who have traveled to China, Iran, Italy, South Korea or Japan, in addition to self-monitoring for symptoms, are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. That means they should not go to work or school and stay at home.
In response to a question from Rhode Island Catholic at the press conference, Dr. Alexander Scott said that a staff member from St. Raphael Academy who tested positive for COVID-19, who has been hospitalized following his participation in a school trip to France, Italy and Spain, remains in the hospital.
“That gentleman has continued to improve. He remains stable and is continuing on the right course,” Dr. Alexander Scott said.
St. Raphael Academy, meanwhile, continues to remain closed for another week following a thorough cleaning, although the students continue to learn remotely from home. At the start of the freshman year, all students of the school are issued laptop computers with which they can continue their studies whenever they are out or the school has a scheduled professional development day for staff.
Also on Monday, the Diocese of Providence, out of an abundance of caution amid Coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, and after careful consultation with the Rhode Island Department of Health and Bryant University, announced that it would cancel its annual Faith Formation Convocation, which was scheduled to begin on Saturday with a Mass which historically has drawn 1,000 participants from across Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. The event will not be rescheduled this year, although the diocesan Office of Faith Formation is looking at scheduling smaller-scale events in either the late spring or early summer.
For those who purchased tickets to the events, a full refund will be issued. If you have not received your refund within 30 days, please contact the Office of Faith Formation at 401-278-4646 to inquire about the status of your refund.
For more information on COVID-19, the state’s Department of Health has established a hotline number to call, an email address to write to and as a website with up-to-date information on the impact of the illness in Rhode Island.
People with general questions about COVID-19 can visit www.health.ri.gov/covid, write to RIDOH.COVID19Questions@health.ri.gov, or call 401-222-8022, the COVID-19 Hotline that RIDOH has available to the public. After hours people are being directed to call 211.