Rhode Islanders encouraged to use cloth coverings in public

Golden Crest Nursing Centre in North Providence has seen five fatalities and more than 60 residents and staff fall ill to coronavirus, according to Rhode Island health officials. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

WPRO News and The Associated Press

Rhode Island’s top medical official is encouraging residents to wear “cloth-based coverings” on their faces when in public to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

State Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott says residents should not purchase or hoard medical-grade face masks, which are needed for health care workers. But she says residents can use scarves, bandanas or other cloth items to cover the mouth and nose while away from home.

Authorities announced two more COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing the state’s total to 14 deaths. Meanwhile, students at West Warwick High School are using 3D printers to make face shields for health care workers.

Dr. Alexander-Scott said nursing homes in the state were particularly hard hit by the virus, with five deaths and more than 60 illnesses reported at Golden Crest Nursing Centre in North Providence, and two fatalities and a similar number of illnesses among residents and staff at Oak Hill, a nursing home in Pawtucket.

She said the Department of Health was requiring nursing home patients with coronavirus to be sequestered from the rest of the residents, ith contact with each patient limited to just one staff member.

Governor Gina Raimondo reported Friday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state planners had identified three sites to serve as temporary hospital facilities that can provide an additional 1,000 beds in anticipation of a surge in coronavirus cases. They are the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, a Citizens Bank building in Cranston and the vacant, former Lowe’s store in North Kingstown.

The state has met its goal of being able to test a thousand people a day for coronavirus, Raimondo said, prompting her and Dr. Alexander-Scott to encourage those feeling ill to get tested.