standing Rhode Island State House

PROVIDENCE (AP) — More than 1,000 people have died of coronavirus-related illness in Rhode Island, the state Department of Health announced Thursday.

The agency reported four new fatalities, bringing the statewide coronavirus death toll since the pandemic began earlier this year to 1,001.

In response, Gov. Gina Raimondo ordered state flags at all state agencies and buildings to be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.

“This pandemic has taken a terrible toll on our state, and my heart breaks for the thousands of Rhode Islanders who have lost someone to this virus,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “We must continue to do everything we can in their memory to protect our neighbors, friends, and family from COVID-19.”

The flags will stay at half-staff until sunset on Sunday.

In addition, the State House will be illuminated through Sunday in red, white and blue to honor all Americans who have lost their lives during the pandemic, she said.

The state also reported more than 75 new confirmed cases of the disease Thursday, for a total of more than 18,100 known cases since the pandemic began.

The new confirmed cases were out of more than 3,500 tests administered, for a positive rate of about 2.1%.

The number of people in the hospital with the coronavirus was at nearly 70 as of Tuesday, the latest day for which the information was available, roughly the same as the previous three days. Seven of the patients were in intensive care.

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HOSPITAL MASK-WEARING

Even hospitals in Rhode Island are having trouble getting all visitors to wear face coverings to stymie the spread of the coronavirus, according to people who work in the state's health care industry.

Some people outright refuse to wear them even when they’re reminded, and security has had to be called to escort them from the building, Ray Sullivan, a spokesperson for a union that represents about 2,700 nurses and other professionals at Rhode Island Hospital told The Providence Journal.

“I wouldn’t say it’s rampant, but it’s occurred enough that we’ve asked the hospital to examine their policy, and to try to work with us to achieve a solution,” Sullivan said.

Kathleen Hart, a spokeswoman for the hospital's parent company Lifespan, acknowledged issues with some visitors.

“As much as we have communicated our visitation policy to guests, unfortunately there have been instances where visitors have not complied with this policy," she said in an email.

Sullivan said often people enter the building wearing a mask, but at some point take them off or lower them once they’re on the floors of the hospital or in a room.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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