Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday announced some plans for improving Rhode Island's health care system amid exposed flaws and inequities during the coronavirus pandemic.
During her daily news briefing, Raimondo said she will sign an executive order to make sure the state has a long term health care improvement plan. Part of that plan is to invest in primary care, prevention and telehealth.
"The virus has also worsened health disparities," Raimondo said while speaking of inequities in the health care system.
The state is also developing a pediatric advisory council, led by Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. Part of what the council will address is child immunizations which Raimondo said dropped by 35% since the pandemic began.
"That's a disaster waiting to happen," Raimondo said.
The governor also said Rhode Island plans to distribute as much $150 million of federal stimulus money to help the state's hospitals recover from the financial hit they have taken during the coronavius pandemic. The hospital relief fund is to offset immediate costs and to prepare for the future.
The state on Thursday reported 14 new deaths related to COVID-19. The total number of deaths now stands at 756.
Health officials reported 100 new positive COVID-19 cases for a total of 15,325.
"The numbers are continuing to trend in the right direction," Raimondo said despite the new deaths.
The governor said the first few days of Phase 2 "has been an excellent experience so far."
"We want to continue to get back to business," Raimondo said while reminding residents that the virus is still not gone.
The governor is still urging residents to not go out if they are sick, to continue washing hands and using hand sanitizer, maintain 6-foot social distancing and to wear a face covering.
The scheduled remarks come as the state navigates the reopening process amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, including in Rhode Island.
On Wednesday, Raimondo said the state plans to distribute masks during peaceful protests.
During Wednesday's news conference, Raimondo said "it's a fundamental right in our society to protest" but people must still be aware of the coronavirus.
"It doesn't mean that we can forget the virus is still with us," she said.
Although protesters are encouraged to bring their own masks, health officials will be on hand to distribute masks and hand out pamphlets on COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Health officials will also try to get more people to download the Crush COVID RI app.
People have protested across New England in recent days, calling for justice and reforms in order to prevent unarmed black people from being killed.
Early Tuesday, a crowd of hundreds of people smashed storefront windows, broke into a closed mall, and torched a police cruiser in Providence.
Raimondo said Tuesday that nearly 70 people were arrested, almost all of them from Rhode Island, but did not describe them as protesters.
The governor said some residents had expressed concerns of the app's tracking element and did not understand if it would have access to their personal contacts.
"You can have confidence that no one is going to get a hold of your data. It will never ask any identifying information about you," Raimondo said while reiterating that the app's location feature can be turned off.
During Phase 2, personal care services such as hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and massage therapists are allowed to reopen, as long as their reopening plans have been approved.
Restaurants offering indoor dining will be required to do so at 50% capacity and on a reservation-only basis. Self-serve stations such as buffets will not be allowed, and customers and staff will be required to wear masks.
State parks and beaches will open with capacity limitations and social distancing restrictions. There will not be restrictions on parking, lifeguards will be on duty and concessions and bathrooms and changing rooms will be able at that time.
Child care centers in Rhode Island reopened with safety guidelines in place Monday, as the state continues to resume activities amid the global pandemic. The governor said over 600 child care centers in the state had provided their reopening plans and were approved to resume operations.