R.I. COVID-19 cases increase by eight to 132; Raimondo touts stimulus aid

Updated at 4:47 p.m.

PROVIDENCE – The number of confirmed Rhode Island cases of COVID-19 reached 132 on Wednesday, an eight-case increase from the day before, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo said.

Sixteen people infected with the virus are hospitalized in the state, R.I. Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said. The majority of those people are in stable condition but some are in intensive care, she said.

At her news briefing on Wednesday, Raimondo addressed the $2 trillion stimulus package that was agreed to by the White House and congressional leaders early Wednesday morning, hailing it as good news. The bill still needs House and Senate approval.

The agreement includes a $367 billion program for small businesses, direct payments to U.S. residents and increased unemployment insurance benefits, including to those not regularly eligible, such as independent contractors, gig-economy workers and small-business owners.

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The governor said the package will provide direct support to small businesses and financial support to local hospitals.

The state will also be receiving $1.25 billion, the state minimum, as part of the coronavirus package.

“We’re going to be doing everything we can to get that money in the street and in the pocketbooks,” Raimondo said.

Although details of the package still need to be sorted out, the governor expects some money to go to local businesses, especially those that agree to retain workforces during the coronavirus crisis.

Money will also go to hospitals and middle- and lower-income people.

“Today is a good day, there is a great deal of money in the stimulus package directly focused on hospitals,” Raimondo said. “This stimulus is going to help us bridge the gap between where we are today and [where we want to be].”

Earlier in the day, the R.I. Department of Labor and Training reported that unemployment claims related to COVID-19 had surpassed 50,000.

Raimondo continued to emphasize staying away from others, and took aim at big-box stores in particular, where crowds of shoppers are still reportedly gathering.

“We are getting way too many reports of big-box retail operations that have too many cars in the parking lots and … too many people in close proximity in the stores,” she said. “The only way I can continue to keep these open is to reduce the amount of people that are inside.”

New regulations, headed by the R.I. Department of Business Regulation, are expected to appear today on the department’s website. They include a limit on the number of customers and mandatory spacing between customers in line.

State and local authorities will be doing unannounced checks to ensure compliance, Raimondo said.

“If I find you’re not complying then I’m going to have to do something more extreme,” she said.

(UPDATES third paragraph to CORRECT that bill needs House and Senate approval.)




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