As of 7 a.m. Sunday, March 15, three Maine residents have tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus, according to the state. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Rhode Island has risen from 14 to 20, state officials announced Saturday.
The new cases are not a surprise, and Rhode Islanders should expect more as the virus spreads, Gov. Gina Raimondo said.
Raimondo, a Democrat, encouraged local religious groups to cancel weekend services. She called on local high school and college students not to use their unexpected break from classes as an opportunity to gather with friends.
“There will be more cases; Rhode Islanders should know that,” Raimondo said. “The number of cases will depend on each and every one of us.”
The people recently diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, are all recovering at home, state Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said.
Three of the patients had recently traveled, two domestically and one to Portugal.
“We’re still investigating” the new cases, Alexander-Scott said.
Officials said Friday about 200 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the state to date.
The state ordered its two casinos closed for at least a week because of the virus.
The Twin River Casino in Lincoln and the Tiverton Casino Hotel both closed their doors to the public Saturday morning. Officials say they will consider whether to extend the closure in a week.
“We understand that this decision may be disappointing to our customers, and we appreciate your patience,” Aubin wrote in a statement announcing the closure. “Our top priority is the safety of Rhode Islanders.”
Twin River, which operates the casinos, says both facilities are being aggressively cleaned.
Because of the virus the state’s health insurance exchange, HealthSourceRI, will open a special enrollment period to allow Rhode Islanders to enroll for coverage.
The enrollment window opens Monday and runs through April 15.
Raimondo also announced a series of other changes to insurance regulations intended to ensure people can get the care if they become infected. They include a mandate allowing patients to be tested and screened for the virus at no cost to them.
Students skipping quarantine
Officials said some high school students are ignoring instructions to self-quarantine for 14 days after a classmate was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Cranston Mayor Allan Fung released a video message to Cranston West High School students admonishing them to take the virus seriously
“I need you to go home and stay home for the remainder of the 13 days,” he said. “Parents, you can blame it all on me… None of us are joking here.”
Raimondo said she had also heard reports that high school and college students were taking advantage of canceled classes by gathering with friends. That should stop, she said.
“This isn’t a time to take vacation and get together will all of your friends and meet out at a restaurant,” she said. “If you are doing that you are missing the point of taking the week off.”
State officials said it’s up to individual leaders of each church or religious organization to decide whether to cancel services. They left little doubt about their preference.
“Please cancel the church services,” Alexander-Scott said. “That is the responsible thing to do.”
Trials and legislative action postponed
All jury trials in Rhode Island state courts have been postponed in response to the virus, the state Supreme Court’s chief justice said Friday.
The courts will remain open and staffed to deal with emergency matters including domestic violence petitions, temporary restraining orders, bail, and arraignments for charges of serious crimes, Chief Justice Paul Suttell said in a statement.
The state General Assembly said Friday that all House and Senate sessions, including committee hearings, will be canceled next week.
Legislative leaders said they will also push for the administration to thoroughly clean the State House during the closure.
About the virus
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The vast majority of people recover. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Watch: Symptoms of the coronavirus disease