RHODE ISLAND – During a press conference on Sunday, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced 17 new positive cases of COVID-19, or coronavirus, in Rhode Island, bringing the total number to 83.
"That's a bigger jump than we normally have, that is true," Raimondo said. "We are not surprised by it, we are not alarmed by it. As a general rule, I would say we're not panicking. This isn't a time to panic. It's a time to plan."
There are no fatalities at this point.
Raimondo also said she would be signing an executive order shutting down recreation or entertainment facilities, such as theaters, cinemas, salons and tattoo parlors. The executive order will go in effect tomorrow at 5 p.m.
“If you’re open, you’re breaking the law and we will enforce it,” Raimondo said, adding that she had “huge sympathy” with local businesses.
The executive order also directs all business personnel to work from home, if they’re able to.
“These aren’t requests, they’re directives,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo went on to say that she still wasn't in favor of a statewide shutdown– which states like Connecticut and New York have enacted–but was adamant that Rhode Islanders had to be “very serious” about social distancing, and not congregating in groups of ten or more.
“What we do over the next two weeks will determine our collective future, and I am very serious about that,” she added. “The only way we can do that is if we get more serious about social distancing.”
“This isn’t a joke. People will die, our loved ones will die, if we don’t get a little more serious about heeding these directions,” she said.
The governor also touched on the upcoming two weeks of “distance learning” for Rhode Island students, while the schools remain closed. Distance learning, she said, would vary from town to town, with some relying more heavily on the internet while others will assign work to be dropped off at a specific location.
Raimondo said that, while students would be learning from home, they should still treat it as a day of school.
“School is back on tomorrow,” Raimondo said of distance learning. “It’s school, this isn’t a day off. This isn’t vacation.”
She also said that “grab-and-go” lunches and breakfasts would still be available for all schools, though she said that the processes would differ for each town or city.
Raimondo added that the Army Corps. was currently readying buildings, in the case of hospitals overfilling in the near future, which she said was very likely. She also said the state was “scouring the world” for medical supplies.
“We’re on it,” she said. “We have a plan, we’re working aggressively.”
Facilities like college dorms, hotels and other empty buildings were being considered to be used as additional space for patients, if needed.
She also said that, in the near future, the state would be developing a system to do “a lot more testing” for coronavirus.
“Being aggressive is the name of the game,” Raimondo said.
Commerce secretary Stefan Pryor also said that businesses who were having difficulty obtaining a small business loan should reach out to the commerce department directly at (401) 521-HELP.
Another press conference on coronavirus updates is scheduled for tomorrow.