Gov: Rhode Island needs more doctors, nurses amid pandemic

Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott speaks as Governor Gina Raimondo holds her daily press conference on the update of COVID-19 virus updates. Pool photo by Sandor Bodo / The Providence Journal

by Philip Marcelo, The Associated Press

Rhode Island is looking to bolster its ranks of frontline responders to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Gina Raimondo on Tuesday called on health care workers who are not working full time or are retired to contribute to the response effort.

The Democrat said the state is in “desperate need” of doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers and other trained professionals. She says those willing to help can sign up at www.RIResponds.org.

“We will run out of people,” Raimondo said. “We need you. We can’t get through this crisis without you.”

State officials also announced Tuesday that nursing school students with one semester under their belt will be able to qualify for a 90-day certified nursing assistant license so they can start working.

The state also ordered healthcare workers, including those at nursing homes, to wear masks at all times while working.

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DEATHS, HOSPITALIZATIONS RISE

Eight people have died in Rhode Island from the new coronavirus, up from four reported as of Monday.

State Health Department Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said Tuesday that the number of people hospitalized also climbed to nearly 60 from about 40 as of Monday.

Rhode Island has nearly 500 confirmed cases of the virus as of Tuesday, up almost 90 from Monday, she said.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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BEACHES, PARKS CLOSED

Rhode Island’s state beaches and parks will be closed effective Friday.

Raimondo also announced that the opening of campgrounds will be delayed at least until May 1.

The Democrat said she is issuing the order because of reports of large group gatherings at the state’s public spaces.

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JOBLESS CLAIMS CLIMB

Roughly 80,000 Rhode Islanders have filed claims for jobless benefits because of the pandemic, state labor officials said Tuesday.

About 74,000 residents have applied for unemployment insurance benefits and nearly 7,000 have applied to temporary disability benefits citing virus-related reasons.

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COURTS CLOSED

The Washington County courthouse in South Kingstown and the Newport County courthouse in Newport will close effective Wednesday, Chief Justice Paul Suttell said in a statement.

Emergency and essential matters normally heard in the South Kingstown and Newport courts will now be heard in the Kent County courthouse in Warwick until further notice.

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EMERGENCY DECLARATION APPROVED

President Donald Trump has approved a coronavirus disaster declaration for Rhode Island.

The move makes the state eligible for additional federal emergency aid. Raimondo issued a state of emergency for the state on March 9.

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Associated Press reporter Mark Pratt in Boston contributed to this story.