Raimondo: RI headed for ‘extreme measures’ as virus worsens

Dr. Laura Forman, chief of Emergency Medicine at Kent Hospital listens to Gov. Gina Raimondo at her coronavirus briefing November 12, 2020. Pool photo by David DelPoio / The Providence Journal

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) — Gov. Gina Raimondo said Thursday that Rhode Island could be moving toward more extreme restrictions and warned the state’s hospitals could soon be full as the virus crisis in the state worsens.

The Democratic governor said COVID-19 hospitalizations in Rhode Island are at the highest level they’ve been since May and have doubled in the last couple of weeks. She estimated that the state would need to use its field hospital in Cranston within weeks.

“I fear that we are moving toward another lockdown,” Raimondo told reporters. The governor said she is “pleading” with residents to wear masks and stop having social gatherings “of any kind, period.”

“I worry that we are getting close to some pretty extreme measures,” Raimondo said. The state was never truly locked down but tougher restrictions in the spring shuttered businesses and ordered residents to stay home.

Raimondo blamed the virus’ spread on people flouting the rules, not taking the disease seriously enough and continuing to have indoor gatherings with family and friends.

Under new rules Raimondo announced last week, masks are now required whenever people are with others that they don’t live with, including when outdoors. Residents are also asked to remain at home from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. on weeknights and 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends. Restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses must end in-person service at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 10:30 p.m. weekends.

The governor said she believes the state’s hospitals will be completely filled in about three weeks if cases continue to rise at the current rate. She said she has instructed officials to get the field hospital ready to begin taking patients.

The state Department of Health reported more than 900 new virus cases and seven additional deaths on Thursday. The 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from 3.02% on Oct. 28 to 4.81% on Nov. 11.

State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

In other news related to the pandemic in Rhode Island:

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SCHOOLS CLOSED

Rhode Island’s second-largest school district has halted all in-person learning amid an “abundance” of COVID-19 cases, administrators said.

The Cranston Public Schools announced the decision to move to distance learning in a letter to families on Wednesday. Administrators said the closure of schools is temporary and they will reassess the return to the classroom in the coming days.

“The move to distance learning is a result of the abundance of cases of COVID-19 that have been reported to us in recent days and even just today alone,” the letter said.

The district said that “as cases of staff who are positive, quarantined or in the process of being tested, have increased greatly, staffing has become difficult to maintain and predict.”