Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo offered new guidance Saturday on who should seek out a coronavirus test as the state continues to ramp up its daily capacity.
She encouraged anyone who feels they have coronavirus symptoms to contact their health care provider and called on physicians to send more referrals. The policy change comes amid ramped-up testing capability in the state — previously, tests were scarce and anyone with mild symptoms was urged not to use one.
"We're open for business," Raimondo said. "I no longer want you to be shy about coming forward if you think you have coronavirus symptoms.”
While test results may still take a few days to come back, she said the state is now equipped to swab more than 1,000 people a day and tests will be available for those who exhibit symptoms.
Raimondo announced three more deaths and 97 new cases of coronavirus in her remote Saturday briefing. There have now been 17 deaths and 806 cases of the virus in the state.
The governor also told worshippers to stay away from churches on Palm Sunday, instead encouraging people to watch services online.
"We know that this virus sticks to surfaces, and it lives on surfaces for days, many days," Raimondo said, including palms among the potentially dangerous surfaces. "We could have a huge disaster on our hands."
Golf courses, which have remained open after not appearing on a list of non-critical retail businesses required to close, will remain open for the time being, Raimondo said. She said the courses are under strict guidelines and may be closed after the weekend if the rules don't appear to be followed.
She also acknowledged the hardships that Rhode Islanders are facing because of the coronavirus outbreak and the strict measures she's put in place to keep it from spreading faster.
“If you’re struggling, you’re not alone, because we all are," Raimondo said Saturday, urging residents who are staying home to find grounding routines and other ways to stay healthy for the coming weeks.
About 100,000 of the roughly 1.2 million medical-grade masks brought to the U.S. on a New England Patriots team plane are set to go to Rhode Island, while the state has another five million on order, according to Raimondo.
The state announced an advisory on Friday for residents to wear fabric masks in public on Friday. Raimondo said Saturday that she had been hesitant to offer the recommendation, since officials didn't want people to believe wearing one could be a "magic bullet" against the virus.
Instead, she advised residents to add wearing masks to a list of practices including social distancing, staying home if you're sick and washing your hands.
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Despite the difficulties brought by the pandemic, Raimondo asked viewers to think about those working to stop the spread. The State House will be lit red for the next week to honor first responders.
“See that red dome and know that that's a big thank you from every Rhode Islander to you for doing what you're doing," she said to the state's essential workers.
In her Friday briefing, Raimondo said that data showed people in Rhode Island are not abiding by guidelines as well as their neighbors in Massachusetts or the national average. She announced a state-wide stay-at-home order on March 28 that would last through April 3.
Gatherings of more than five people have also been banned, while anyone arriving in the state for non-work-related reasons must quarantine for 14 days.
"We can't do this without you," Raimondo said to her residents on Friday.