Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is calling on private companies to help the state replenish its stockpile of medical supplies for responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
She said Thursday that the state needs specialized swabs to collect virus samples for testing, as well as personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and gowns to keep health care workers safe.
She said she was hoping that local medical supply companies, manufacturers, research labs, dentists and other businesses that might stock the equipment can step up.
Health officials said Thursday that the state now has 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up 11 from Wednesday. Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the State Department of Health, said that the people ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s.
South County has had 7 cases so far. There have been 23 in Providence County, 6 in Newport County, and fewer than 5 in both Bristol and Kent counties, the health department reported. Of the people who have been tested, 654 tested negative and results are pending for another 140. A report on Wednesday said that 2,500 people were in self-quarantine.
The governor said Thursday that state courts will not process any residential or commercial evictions for the next 30 days. Payment and filing deadlines have also been extended past April 17. Public housing residents with questions can contact Rhode Island Legal Services at 274.2652 x123. Tenants in private rental housing can call the Rhode Island Center for Justice at 401-491-1101.
On the matter of price gouging, Rhode Islanders who suspect price gouging or COVID-19 scams should contact the Attorney General’s Office. Businesses are prohibited from increasing the price of any essential commodity to an "unconscionably high price" immediately before or during a declared state of emergency. Anyone who notices price gouging or scams should contact the Attorney General’s consumer protection team at 401-274-4400 or fill out an online complaint.
Over the last several days, organizations have contacted the state about laboratory supplies and personal protective equipment that they would like to donate. On online form has been set up to get information about these donations: bit.ly/covid19-msd
In other developments on Thursday, the University of Rhode Island reported that it had confirmed a case of COVID-19 within the college community. "The individual who is ill, a staff member, is in self-isolation at home following protocols from the Rhode Island Department of Health," a university spokesman said. "As the University offers support and assistance to the individual, we wish them a speedy and full recovery."
The university further said that the health department is leading the effort to identify individuals who were in contact with the staff member and arranging for their self-quarantine. "In addition, the area in which this individual worked has been appropriately cleaned in accordance with U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines," URI reported.
The Lottery Division of the state Department of Revenue announced Thursday that the closure of the Twin River and Tiverton casinos would be extended until March 21, a week beyound the original date.
The Rhode Island Department of Education also issued a statement regarding its "distance learning" initiative. Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Angélica Infante-Green said: “I am proud to report that all 64 of the local education agencies in Rhode Island have submitted their initial distance learning plans ... Our team continues to review the plans and work with the LEAs as they refine and modify them on an ongoing basis. We are eager to keep our teachers teaching and our learners learning."
The commissioner said that the plans include a broad array of options for delivering learning over the next two weeks, starting on Monday. They range from online classes and discussions to the home delivery of learning packets. "Even as they revise their plans, district and school leaders are working with their teachers to ensure that they are ready to implement the plans when the first virtual bell rings on Monday," Infante-Green said.
"The major challenge that our local education leaders face is ensuring access to all students, especially those who lack online options at home or have individualized education plans. Our RIDE team is working to connect local education leaders with companies that have stepped up to offer software packages, hotspot service for homes and other technical assistance," the commissioner said.