Raimondo announces help for small businesses, stresses importance of testing
RIDOH reports 221 new cases and 18 fatalities Wednesday
PROVIDENCE, R.I.– Governor Gina Raimondo announced expanded assistance for the state’s small businesses and again highlighted the importance of testing to reopening plans in an afternoon briefing Wednesday.
“I’ve tried to listen to people and respond to practical, everyday demands,” Raimondo said.
Responding to those demands, Raimondo announced two initiatives geared to small businesses.
For businesses with 50 employees or fewer, the state will begin to distribute 500,000 masks along with vouchers for surface disinfectant. Supplies are intended to last each business one month. The vouchers can be exchanged for disinfectant at any Ocean State Job Lot store, Raimondo said.
Businesses will have to prove they’ve complied with the state’s reopening checklist template, and developed an outbreak response plan. These templates, and more information on the supplies, can be found on the Reopening RI website and the Rhode Island Commerce website.
The governor also announced the donation of 500 laptops provided by Microsoft, that will be available to businesses with employees of 25 or fewer. Raimondo said the state was looking to focus on minority and woman-owned businesses that may be struggling with a lack of technology to conduct business remotely.
Applications for the laptops are available in English and Spanish on the Rhode Island Commerce website.
Microsoft has also donated an additional 500 laptops for students in need. The governor highlighted Rhode Island College as one recipient, and said other schools in poorer communities were still struggling with access to technology.
Raimondo again stressed the importance of testing for the virus as central to the state’s reopening plan.
The governor acknowledged that the state is struggling to contain outbreaks in immigrant and less-affluent communities, citing 15 to 20 percent infection rates in some hard hit areas of the state. She urged those that may be experiencing symptoms in densely populated areas to be tested.
Raimondo stressed that testing was free, and would not involve questions about citizenship, two fears that may be keeping members of impacted communities form seeking tests.
“If you’re hearing me now and have been afraid, please have the courage to get tested,” Raimondo said. “It will help you and your entire community.”
Raimondo said the state was adding two additional Stop and Shop sites in Providence for the randomized testing program the Rhode Island Department of Health rolled out last week.
The program is voluntary, but the governor urged residents to submit to the testing if they received a letter in the mail. The tests look for both the presence of the coronavirus and antibodies, in an effort to get better data on how the virus is spreading.
Raimondo emphasized that the Stop and Shop test sites were only for those selected in the random testing program, and are not open to the general public.
The governor began her address by reminding residents that the state’s two main hospital groups, Care New England and Lifespan, were now open for all doctor appointments, treatments, and non-critical surgeries.
Raimondo acknowledged that residents may be afraid to return to doctor’s offices, but offered assurance that medical professionals were ready for patients and had safety protocols in place.
RIDOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott welcomed the news regarding hospitals and doctors, while driving home another message on healthcare.
“Health does not start in the doctors office,” Alexander-Scott said, “it starts in the schools we attend and the communities we live in.”
Earlier Wednesday morning, the RIDOH announced 221 new cases and 18 additional coronavirus fatalities.
The state has seen 11,835 positive cases and 462 deaths in total since the pandemic began.
Currently, there are 269 individuals hospitalized for the virus, with 68 in the ICU, and 48 on a ventilator.
There were 2,683 people tested on Tuesday.
©WLNE-TV/ABC 6 2020