The Rhode Island State Department of Health on Saturday announced 19 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the state's total to 137.
Ten of the new deaths happened in what Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott called congregate-care facilities, which are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus, she said.
Alexander-Scott additionally announced 317 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the state. As of Saturday, there have been 4,491 reported cases of COVID-19 in the Ocean State.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said the virus is expected to peak in the state sometime between the last week of April and the first week of May.
The state's executive face mask order goes into effect Saturday and requires all workers to wear a mask for their entire shift.
All employees of the state's customer-facing businesses, office-based businesses, manufacturers, nonprofits and construction workers are required to wear a cloth face mask that covers their nose and mouth when they are at work, per the order.
Additionally, businesses must take steps to remind their customers to wear face coverings, Raimondo said. The only exceptions are for anyone whose health would be in jeopardy because of wearing a face covering or any children under two years old.
Face coverings will help prevent the spread of the virus, Raimondo said.
The state will conduct spot checks on businesses and give fines to those who do not comply, according to the governor.
Alexander-Scott emphasized that the executive mask order does not negate social distancing requirements. People must stay at least six feet apart from one another.
Rhode Island's stay-at-home order is in effect until May 8.
Continuing Coronavirus Coverage
The Rhode Island Artist Relief Fund was also announced Saturday. It was created to provide grants to artists in the state who are in financial distress as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The fund has awarded $126,030 in grants to support 253 Rhode Island artists. Gov. Raimondo encouraged anyone who is in a position to help to donate to the fund.
Starting Sunday, big box stores that include garden centers are required to close open browsing and shopping options within their garden centers. Garden center sales will be temporarily limited to pickup, delivery, and appointment options.
Measures either already in place or set for launch soon include isolation at the first sign of symptoms; aggressive and more frequent testing of residents and their caregivers every seven to 10 days; and the creation of "strike teams" that can be deployed to nursing homes that are experiencing outbreaks to aid the staff.
The state will also provide support for families taking care of elderly relatives at home, Alexander-Scott said.
Beacon Mutual Insurance Co., Rhode Island's dominant workers' compensation insurer, will work under the presumption that front-line health care workers with COVID-19 got the disease in the line of duty, making them eligible for benefits, Raimondo said on Friday.
The company will also expedite the claims of health care workers, she said.