Rhode Island Braces For Growing Number Of Coronavirus Cases

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Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (right) and R.I. Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott (behind) face reporters during a news conference on COVID-19. (Steven Senne/AP)
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (right) and R.I. Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott (behind) face reporters during a news conference on COVID-19. (Steven Senne/AP)

As Washington and California grapple with a number of coronavirus cases, Rhode Island has confirmed two people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says there are 20 people who have been tested. One person diagnosed with the disease is recovering well at home, she says, while the other remains in the hospital.

Roughly 200 people are in quarantine, Raimondo says, and that number is “changing constantly.”

The state has set up a 24/7 public hotline — (401) 222-8022 — staffed with health care professionals for those with questions about the coronavirus or how to self-quarantine.

“I would just say to folks, please keep yourselves as well-informed as possible and follow the instructions that are being given by the experts,” she says.

Interview Highlights

On her biggest concerns about coronavirus

“I want to make sure that we're striking the right balance. I don't want anyone to be panicked. There's no need for that. Our response so far has been extremely robust. I'm so proud of our Department of Health and the CDC. And the risk to Rhode Islanders is low. So I want everyone to know that it is still low risk. Having said that, we look at what's happening in Italy and other places that are affected. That could change quickly.

“So my message to Rhode Islanders is be smart. Keep yourself safe. Wash your hands. Stay home if you're sick. In terms of my own team, we are getting ourselves prepared, putting infrastructure in place for the next stage of this if it starts to accelerate.”

On aid from the federal government

“I'll say I'm very grateful that the United States Congress moved quickly and just today the president signed the appropriation bill. That can't come soon enough. We need help. We need more what's called PPE. You know, the masks and goggles and gowns for people, we definitely need more of that. We need money to hire more people right now in Rhode Island. We've set up a 24-hour corona hotline, which is being staffed by the Department of Health.

"But, you know, we need help. We need to hire more people: nurses, doctors, health care professionals. We need funds to do that. We have already set up multiple testing sites around the state that kind of drive-thru testing sites that are not in traditional health care settings. Those all need to be staffed. So I would say the CDC has been terrific. And I want to give a huge shout out to all of the civil servants in the CDC who've been working overtime. But those resources and the protective equipment, they can't get here fast enough.”

On the risk of spring break excursions and transmission from Italy

“I have asked for all school trips and organized trips abroad to be canceled or postponed. I should note that every case of corona we have in Rhode Island emanated from a single school trip to Italy. There were 36 people who went to Italy over the last break, we have a school break in February and that's when folks got sick.

“So I am asking for the next round of spring break, please cancel or postpone any organized trips abroad. Certainly, if your home is Italy, China, South Korea, Seattle, you shouldn't go. You know, you shouldn't go. So I would say be smart about it. The biggest message, by the way, is stay informed. This crisis is evolving. I mean, literally by the hour. And so my message today may be different tomorrow.”

Emiko Tamagawa produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Kathleen McKenna. James Perkins Mastromarino and Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on March 6, 2020.


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Jeremy Hobson Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.



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