Virus Outbreak Rhode Island

Shoppers walk near a social distancing arrow on a carpet in a hallway at Providence Place shopping mall, Monday, June 1, 2020, in Providence, R.I. Providence Place was opened Monday, June 1 for the first time since mid-March when it was closed in response to the coronavirus crisis. The mall has taken safety measures in response to the pandemic, including safe distancing signage and hand-sanitizing stations in common areas. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Rhode Island is expanding coronavirus testing to people not showing symptoms as the number of new COVID-19 cases in the state continues to decline, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Monday.

The Democratic governor said the goal is to develop an “early warning system” so the state can quickly respond to outbreaks and prevent another widespread economic shutdown.

She said the state will ramp up to testing about 900 people a day who are asymptomatic, starting with child care and “close contact” workers.

A similar effort has already been underway for weeks in the hard-hit nursing home industry, where all residents and staff have undergone multiple rounds of testing during the pandemic, whether they’ve shown symptoms or not, she said.

Raimondo acknowledged that testing of asymptomatic people is not as accurate as testing of those with symptoms. But she said she hopes more widespread testing gives people greater confidence to patronize local businesses as the state continues to reopen its economy.

Raimondo said the state has the highest rate of coronavirus testing per capita, with more than 15% of residents already tested.

Police protests

The tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders who participated in anti-police brutality protests in recent days should get tested for COVID-19 about three to seven days after possible exposure, Raimondo and state health officials said Monday.

Raimondo, who has apologized for failing to wear a face mask when she spoke at a massive protest in downtown Providence Friday night, confirmed she will get tested later this week.

The governor had met with Black Lives Matter organizers ahead of the event, which ended at the State House, but said she was initially reluctant to attend because she didn’t want to break her own executive order against large public gatherings.

Raimondo said she eventually addressed the crowd in an attempt to de-escalate tensions between protesters and police as the rally stretched late into the night.

Virus cases

State health officials reported Monday that the number of new cases and people hospitalized with the virus have dropped to levels not seen in more than two months.

There were 51 new cases out of nearly 1,600 tests administered on Sunday, the lowest single-day total since March 27, according to the state Health Department.

Raimondo said the rate of new cases was now about 3%, compared with around 20% during the peak of the pandemic.

The department also reported that 146 people were hospitalized with the disease as of Friday, the most recent day for which the data was available. That was the lowest number of people hospitalized since April 3.

The state also reported 10 new coronavirus-related fatalities, bringing the state total to almost 800 deaths.

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