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PROVIDENCE - On Wednesday, Governor Gina Raimondo announced five new fatalities in the state due to COVID-19, bringing Rhode Island’s total deaths related to the novel coronavirus to 35. There are 220 new cases of the virus as of Wednesday, for a total of 1,450 cases throughout the state.  143 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of this writing.

“The number of people we have in the hospital is what we’re focused on right now,” said Raimondo, announcing the state was in the “rapid-spread phase” of the virus. “You should assume at this point that there is widespread community transmission.”

Raimondo on Tuesday also announced the extension of a number of in-place executive orders and mandatory closings into next month due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Per order of the governor, social gatherings of more than five people, as well as dine-in service at restaurants, bars and cafés, will be prohibited through May 8, among other restrictions also extending to the same date and possibly beyond.

“I have made a lot of executive orders and changes over the past five weeks,” said Raimondo. “The overall approach that I’ve taken has been to be aggressive, to be targeted and to strike a balance between keeping people safe and maintaining some semblance of an economy. All difficult decisions. My top job is keeping people safe.”

In addition, public recreational businesses, such as cinemas and bowling alleys, as well as all close-contact businesses, such as hair salons and gyms, will remain closed through May 8. Those traveling back to Rhode Island, either internationally or domestically, via any means are also ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days through May 8.

Raimondo began the daily press briefing Tuesday by asking all Rhode Islanders to start keeping a written log of their daily travels and people they’ve come into contact with, stressing the importance of contact tracing in fighting the spread of the virus and stating a mental log was not enough. The governor also urged people in Rhode Island to continue to follow the basic tips set forth by the Centers for Disease Control, such as frequent hand washing, not touching the face and covering one’s mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and social distancing guidelines laid out by both state and federal authorities.

“Nobody should be going to work if you’re sick,” said Raimondo. “I don’t care who you are, how essential you are. If you have a cough, if you have a cold, if you have a cough, if you have a fever, if you have aches and pains or the sniffles, you should not put on a mask and go to work. That is not okay. What you should be doing is going to get yourself tested.”

The governor reminded the public that per the new federal COVID-19 relief bill, all employees have 10 new sick days from work. Raimondo also called on employers to “do the right thing” and pay employees who are out of work due to illness.

With Rhode Island’s testing for the novel coronavirus ramping up both in terms of speed of availability, Raimondo also touted CVS’ opening of a drive-through testing site at Twin River Casino in Lincoln that has the capability to test an additional 1,000 people per day. The governor stated those who are feeling symptomatic and considered essential employees, still going into work, healthcare workers or seniors over age 60 can go to CVS.com to sign up to get a test time at the new site, where results are produced in a matter of minutes. Those utilizing the new service must first schedule an appointment online via CVS.com.

Those who are younger and otherwise healthy but feeling symptomatic are asked to call their primary care provider, or the Rhode Island Department of Health if they do not have a doctor, to be evaluated and schedule a potential testing appointment at one of the state’s multiple National Guard sites.

The Governor noted many had been attempting to enter CVS retail store locations throughout the state seeking testing for COVID-19, but this was not how the process works. Those seeking testing through this means should go to CVS.com and book an appointment at the drive-through testing center that has been established at in the Twin River Casino parking lot in Lincoln.

All forms of testing for the novel coronavirus in the state are free of charge. Rhode Island now has the capacity to test “well over” 2,000 people a day, according to the governor, who urged those who may have been denied a test at any earlier stage in the outbreak to try to get tested again.

As of Tuesday morning, the state had received about 105,000 unemployment claims and had processed about 70,000 of them, according to the governor.  

Raimondo concluded by stating she would address schools and child care centers in the coming weeks, before offering some brief positivity while acknowledging the obvious horrors of the outbreak.

“I have been so heartened and overwhelmed and inspired by the gestures of kindness and gratitude and patience and empathy that are happening every day all over Rhode Island,” she said. “It’s amazing, it’s really special to see - people looking in on neighbors, sending people flowers, sending a text to make sure people are okay. Please keep that up.”

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