Two people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, have died in Rhode Island, public officials said Saturday, the state's first deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Calling the deaths a "reminder of the stakes that we face," Gov. Gina Raimondo said that about half of the state's residents have not been doing enough to prevent the spread of the virus under prior orders, so she announced a slate of sweeping new measures meant to help:
- Stay-at-home order: Starting immediately through April 13, anyone not leaving the house for food, medical supplies, gas or other essential items must stay home, unless they must go to work or are taking a walk while social distancing. Anyone "sick at all, in any way ... you have to stay at home, period," Raimondo said. And anyone who can work from home must do so.
- Gatherings of more than 5 people banned: "This means everywhere, this means outside as well as inside," she said.
- Travelers' quarantine: Anyone arriving in Rhode Island for any reason besides work must quarantine for 14 days. Raimondo said this will not apply to public health, public safety or health care workers. Realtors and hotel operators must include a provision about that in agreements with renters and lessors.
- Non-essential retail closed: All non-critical retail stores must close through April 13, including clothing stores and gift shops. Restaurants and bars will be allowed to stay open for takeout and delivery only. The full list of critical and non-critical businesses is available here. Raimondo said the state will help get shops' e-commerce operations going and noted that those people are now eligible for unemployment insurance.
Raimondo acknowledged that the measures may be difficult on Rhode Islanders, but they are crucial for stopping a surge in cases that the state is not yet ready for.
"It's time to get serious, it's time to get real," she said.
Both the people who died after being diagnosed with coronavirus had underlying health conditions, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health. One person was in their 80s and died Friday night, the other in their 70s and died Saturday.
No other information about the two people was immediately released.
"Obviously, the potential for loss of life has loomed over us for weeks, from the very beginning. These are the first two deaths and will certainly not be the last," Raimondo said, extending condolences to the families of the two people who died.
Rhode Island had seen 239 people test positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday, Raimondo said, an increase of 36 from Friday. Twenty-nine people are in the hospital.
The state "absolutely" has more people with COVID-19 who haven't yet tested positive, which is why Raimondo is taking the new measures, she said. Following them will prevent the situation from getting more dire.
Nevertheless, she said that Rhode Island remains in a good place relative to other parts of the United States: "I just have to say thank you for all the hard work that's happening because we are in much, much better shape than many cities and states around the country."