Brown University will provide free housing to front-line workers concerned about infecting other people amid the coronavirus pandemic, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Tuesday.
The university will provide 700 dormitory rooms to medical personnel, public safety workers, first responders, nursing and group home workers and others, Raimondo said in a news conference.
"Thank you, Brown University, for stepping up without hesitation," Raimondo said.
The university will offer cleaning and laundry services.
Raimondo said she had received numerous letters from health care workers and other first responders saying they were scared to go home because they might infect someone with the new coronavirus.
The governor stressed the housing at Brown was not for people who had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
People who are "housing insecure" and who have tested positive for the disease can stay at the Wyndham Hotel in Warwick, where the state is providing rooms, she said.
The announcement came as health officials announced 394 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases to 5,500. The state also reported 16 new deaths from the disease, bringing the death toll to 171.
Raimondo also announced the state had acquired some 1.5 million surgical masks for health care workers, saying 90% of them were acquired from the private market.
Raimondo said the new equipment meant all health care workers could wear a fresh mask every day.
Meanwhile, Raimondo said she has not decided whether she will reopen schools, but will make an announcement on the subject later this week.
Despite the new cases, Raimondo reiterated that she believed the state had "flattened the curve" of cases by practicing social distancing.
On Monday, Raimondo detailed her administration's plan to reopen the economy, while cautioning the situation remained fluid.
Raimondo said the plan was "overall consistent" with the phased approach laid out by the Trump administration that recommends states gradually loosen social distancing restrictions after seeing a period of sustained decreases in cases.
She laid out a series of questions her administration would use to gauge when to reopen the economy.
- Has the rate of spread continued to decrease?
- Do we have the capacity to quickly identify community spread on an ongoing basis before a major outbreak occurs?
- Do we have necessary supports in place for vulnerable populations, and for anyone in quarantine?
- Does out health care system have the capacity and PPE to handle future surges?
- Do businesses, schools, child care sites, faith organizations and recreational spaces have plans for long-term social distancing?
- Are we prepared to reimpose measures or re-close certain sectors of the economy if it becomes necessary?
The governor has warned, however, that life would not resume as normal for some time, as large gatherings could still be prohibited.
Rhode Island is part of a group of East Coast states working with each other to coordinate on reopening the economy in a safe way. Raimondo said it was particularly important to work with Massachusetts, with which its economy is closely tied.
Raimondo has said the virus is expected to peak in the state sometime between the last week of April and the first week of May.
Rhode Island's stay-at-home order is in effect until May 8.