Governor says no plans to slow down on COVID-19 testing

The Rhode Island Department of health headquarters in Providence. File photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

The Associated Press

Rhode Island officials have no plans to slow down the state’s aggressive coronavirus testing program despite a suggestion by President Donald Trump that the country stop testing so many people because it results in too many positive cases, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Monday.

“I know there’s been national discussion around reducing testing. We’re not going to do that in Rhode Island. If anything we’re going to increase our testing,” the Democratic governor said in a news conference.

She confirmed later she was referring to the Republican president’s comments at a rally Saturday when he said he’s asked his administration to slow down coronavirus testing. His campaign said the comment was made in jest.

Rhode Island has tested 20% of its population, she said.

The state is working on ways to alleviate long waits to get into state parks and beaches that quickly filled to their reduced coronavirus-related capacity over the weekend.

About 25,000 people visited state beaches on Saturday, and state parks including Goddard Memorial and Colt had lines to get in because they reached capacity, the Democrat said.

She said there were no problems with people getting angry or frustrated because of the waits, although park rangers had to break up some large groups on the beaches that violated state regulations limiting gatherings to 15 people or less, which upset some people.

“I know it’s inconvenient to say the least that you can’t hang out in big groups on the beach, but the gathering rule is 15 and if we thought it was safe to let you congregate in big groups we would, and we’re asking you please to be patient and understanding,” she said.

The governor also expressed disappointment that only 80% of businesses inspected by the state Department of Business Regulation over the weekend could produce their COVID-19 control plan as required when asked.

She suggested tougher enforcement if businesses continue to fail to comply, without offering specifics.

A fund set up to provide direct assistance to Rhode Island residents who are not in the U.S. legally has already raised about $41,000 in the three days since it was announced, Raimondo said.

The goal of the WeR1 fund is to raise $3 million to supply no-fee $400 debit cards to residents who because of their immigration status are not eligible for federal stimulus payments, she said.

“We have an obligation to help all Rhode Islanders get through this,” she said.

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DEATH TOLL SURPASSES 900

The number of Rhode Island residents who have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic started has surpassed 900, the state Department of Health said Monday.

The five new deaths reported Monday brought the state total to 903.

The department also reported 61 new cases of the disease over the weekend, for a total of nearly 16,500 confirmed cases.

The number of people hospitalized continues to decline, with about 100 people in the hospital as of Friday, the latest day for which the data was available. That’s the lowest daily number since late March, according to department charts.

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ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS

A Rhode Island lawmaker has introduced legislation that would make Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings essential and allow them to be held in person during the coronavirus pandemic and other declared emergencies.

“The services provided by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are not only essential, they are necessary for the public health,” state Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson said in a statement Monday. “During the pandemic, AA meetings were designated as a social gathering rather than an essential service, while liquor stores were considered essential and permitted to remain open.”

The Warwick Democrat noted that many people are court-ordered to attend AA meetings.

“To consider this service as nonessential when the results can be devastating is not only absurd, it’s reckless,” she said.

The bill would also mandate that adequate measures be made to provide the services safely.