PROVIDENCE — Workplace masks are a must in Rhode Island now, part of a “new normal,” that may entail continuing remote work and strategically reopened businesses, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Tuesday.
“We all need to realize that, for the next year or so, we’re going to be living under a new set of regulations,” Raimondo said during her daily COVID-19 response press conference at the State House.
Raimondo reminded Rhode Islanders that the only true end to the crisis will be with s proven vaccine and treatments, unlikely to be available for a year or more.
RI workplace masks required
Among the first announcements Raimondo made was a statement about her executive order, taking effect Saturday, April 18, requiring RI workplace masks to be worn by all employees of customer-based businesses, office based businesses, manufacturers and non-profits.
Employers must also provide the face coverings for their employees, and put up signs to remind customers about the need to wear masks, Raimondo said. Also, if your work prevents you from wearing a mask, you must stay at last six feet away from others.
“We’re trying to stop the spread of respiratory droplets when people are in the community, when they’re working, when they’re in the public,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Such respiratory droplets, which carry the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and present an infection risk when inhaled or otherwise transmitted to your nose or eyes, are also why you need to clean high-touch surfaces, Alexander-Scott said.
Face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing or as a way to go into the community with symptoms, she said.
Responding to questions Raimondo said she has received about the necessity of wearing masks, “The answer is yes, that is what we should all be doing.”
Raimondo urged Rhode Islanders to stop thinking about how to avoid following the rules or if the consequences are worth defying them. Rather, she said, people should ask themselves how they are going to follow the rules to prevent spread of COVID-19.
The Governor announced that HealthSourceRI is extending their special open enrollment period through April 30. Rhode Islanders looking to purchase coverage should visit www.healthsourceri.com.
New RI COVID-19 deaths, cases reported
Raimondo and Alexander Scott also announced another seven COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 80 deaths. There were also 275 new cases tested Tuesday, for a total of 3,251.
Of the seven deaths, two were in their 60s, two in their 70s and three were in their 80s.
Three of the deaths were residents at nursing homes. One of the deaths was a man with differing abilities at a residential home in their 70s, the second associated with that facility, Alexander-Scott said.
“Our hearts and condolences go out to those families,” she said.
A full data summary for Rhode Island is posted online.
Raimondo reported state health officials have so far conducted contract tracing of 2,408 people possibly exposed to the coronavirus and at risk for contracting and catching COVID-19. The number represents about 200 contacts traced per day, sh said. Thus far, the health department has successfully reached 3/4 of all contacts on the first attempt and about 90 percent on the second attempt.
Goldman Sachs small business loans tapped
Raimondo said the Goldman Sachs $10 million loan fund for small businesses distressed by the economic freeze necessitated by the COVID-19 response was quickly tapped out. The fund had been expended by the time she’d announced it Monday.
“We ran though the entire $10 million in a day,” she said.
Raimondo said she hopes to get Goldman Sachs to add more capital to the fund and to also explore adding part of the stimulus into the fund.
This is a test