Governor warns of 'dire' consequences and lockdown if Covid trends continue
But with the success of the Pfizer vaccine trial, she added, "hope is on the way"
Rhode Island could be heading toward another lockdown if people continue to disregard the rules and regulations, Gov. Gina Raimondo warned during her COVID-19 briefing Thursday afternoon.
Just yesterday alone, the state saw 936 new positive cases, Gov. Raimondo said, the second day in a row they were over 900. The positivity rate has jumped to 4.7 percent, with hospitalizations now doubled since a few weeks ago.
“It shows you how quickly our fate can change,” she said.
The primary source of the spread, Gov. Raimondo added, continues to be from small, informal gatherings that are held indoors and among families and friends, not wearing masks. Part of the current strain on hospitals is a direct result from Halloween parties that were hosted a few weekends ago.
“Now you see it in the cases, clear as day,” Gov. Raimondo said.
Rhode Island’s situation is not unique, she noted; cities and countries all over the world are currently bracing for a second or third wave of the virus, with places like Germany and the United Kingdom already on full lockdown. Though she has tried to instead take incremental steps toward mitigating the spread of COVID-19 – such as shutting down breakrooms, instating an overnight stay-at-home advisorty and imposing early business closures – Gov. Raimondo said she is “not optimistic” those measures will be enough to prevent having to take “extreme” action.
“That’s where we’re headed folks, total lockdown, if we don’t start to get more serious and follow the rules,” she said.
Already, Rhode Island’s hospital system is becoming strained by a surge in both COVID-19 cases and non-related illnesses; at this rate, Gov. Raimondo estimated that the state will need to utilize the Cranston Field Hospital within three weeks. She implored Rhode Islanders to take the rules and regulations seriously, stating that a failure to do so will have “dire” consequences.
“This is very real, we are in a terrible spot … you need to know that that’s costing lives,” she said.
Dr. Laura Forman, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Kent Hospital, echoed Gov. Raimondo’s concerns, attesting that what she has seen over the last eight months is like nothing she has ever witnessed in the United States throughout her 20-plus-year career in emergency medicine.
“It is much closer, in fact, to that which I have experienced working in refugee camps and battlefields across the world,” Dr. Forman said.
Though Gov. Raimondo said that the next couple of months will be the hardest of the pandemic, she did have some good news to report as well. With Pfizer’s announcement earlier this week of a 90 percent effectiveness rating during their trial of a COVID-19 vaccine, she said a vaccine could be made available in a limited capacity by the end of this year if everything remains on track, and more widely so at the beginning of 2021.
“Hope is on the way,” she said.
To prepare, Gov. Raimondo said the state is already working on a phased distribution plan so they can “hit the ground running” when a vaccine is ready. Healthcare workers, people with two or more underlying health conditions and those in nursing homes would likely be included in the first wave; older adults, childcare workers, teachers and school staff during the second. Children, young adults and other low-risk people would be among the last groups to receive the vaccine. Unlike other states, Gov. Raimondo said during the question and answer period that receiving the vaccine will not be mandatory for Rhode Islanders.
Another source of good news, Gov. Raimondo said, was that as of Thursday, Rhode Islanders can now access their COVID-19 test results in one single location – regardless of how they scheduled their test – by visiting portal.ri.gov/results. Residents will need to leave a phone number or email address when getting tested, she added, since that information will be part of the authentication process when logging into the portal.
“The one-stop shop for results is going to help us a lot,” Gov. Raimondo said.
Next week, Gov. Raimondo said she will unveil official guidance for Thanksgiving, which will likely involve “very strict” regulations.
“Start now, planning for new traditions so that you can stay home and stay local,” she said.