Raimondo looks to expand testing, boosts pay for front line workers

RI COVID-19 death toll surpasses 200;6,699 total cumulative cases. 
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PROVIDENCE, RI (WLNE) – The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) released the latest COVID-19 data on Friday reporting 13 new deaths and 437 new COVID-19 positive cases.

That brings Rhode Island’s COVID-19 death toll to 202, and 6,699 total cumulative cases.

There are currently 267 people currently in the hospital, 77 people are in the ICU with 48 of those people on ventilators, according to RIDOH.

A total of 644 people have been admitted to a hospital in Rhode Island for COVID-19, and 377 people have been discharged.

Governor Gina Raimondo said that even as the numbers of positive cases continue to climb, evidence showed that Rhode Island was flattening its curve.

Speaking at her daily afternoon briefing Friday, Raimondo outlined several steps the state was commencing to assist vulnerable populations.

Testing would be central to reopening the state’s economy, Raimondo said. To that end, the governor announced she would be forming a testing strike team that would soon begin conducting mobile testing at both communal living facilities and the homes of elderly and house-bound residents.

The National Guard will be aiding efforts to control the virus at nursing homes, the governor said.

Additional walk-up testing sites are also in the works for communities where people may lack cars. The governor highlighted densely populated areas such as Woonsocket and Central Falls, and the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence.

Raimondo said the current walk-up testing sites in Providence and Pawtucket were each testing close to 100 people per day.

The governor said Rhode Island had received accolades from Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force for its testing rate, among the top in testing per capita of any states.

Rhode Island has tested four percent of its population, Raimondo said.

The governor announced that the state was now developing a plan to test for the presence of antibodies in the population.

The state received 20,000 antibody tests earlier in the week, which were now being validated by experts from Brown University and the state’s hospitals.

By testing a random selection of the state’s population, more information can be gathered on how widely the virus has been transmitted. The governor said the process of validating the tests and commencing the studies would be a lengthy one.

From the beginning, the governor said her decisions have been informed by a “focus on facts and science.”

Addressing the state’s front line healthcare workers, Raimondo said a plan to boost the hourly rate for those working in nursing homes and other congregate settings would soon be implemented.

The temporary pay increase will be for those making less than $20-per-hour at the state’s residential facilities.

Raimondo said she made the move because Congress had failed to enact similar measures at the federal level.

“I’ve decided to take action,” Raimondo said, “frankly, we need to give them a raise.”

Steps were also outlined that will assist homeowners and renters with monthly fees.

The governor declared 90-day grace period on residential mortgage payments, and said the state’s financial institutions would not report late payments to credit-rating agencies.

A 60-day moratorium was also declared on evictions and foreclosures. The governor said a $1.5 million rental-assistance program would be available starting Thursday, with more details forthcoming early next week.

Raimondo welcomed the news that Congress had restored funds to the depleted Paycheck Protection Program. President Trump signed the latest aid package into law earlier Thursday afternoon, which looks to assist small businesses that had must out on the previous round of disaster relief.

Business owners should be in-touch with their banks and credit unions to access the forgivable loans, Raimondo said.

Acknowledging that some small businesses were still struggling to access the funds, the governor urged owners to reach out to the Commerce RI website. Those needing guidance on navigating federal forms can email questions to: ppp@ricommerce.com.

Looking to increase funds for the state’s struggling hospitals, Raimondo said the time had come to begin allowing non-critical surgeries. The governor said a plan from the hospitals to safely begin procedures was due on her desk by Monday.

The governor turned again to the topic of domestic violence, remarking that the state had seen an uptick in the number of 911 calls related to abuse.

Raimondo stressed that shelters and the state’s domestic violence hotline was still available to those struggling with violence at home.

The governor will be holding a Facebook town hall event Thursday at 11 a.m. to address the issue of domestic violence.

She will be joined by Rhode Island’s congressional delegation and Attorney General Peter Neronha.

©WLNE-TV/ABC 6 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Rhode Island