Rate of coronavirus cases in cities worries top officials

While the overall percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus in Rhode Island continues to decline, allowing many businesses to begin reopening, concern remains over high infection rates in cities.

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Of people tested in Central Falls, 26% have tested positive, state health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said Monday. In Providence, the rate is 25%, and in Pawtucket it's 16%.

“These are numbers that we all agree are unacceptable, and while they are occurring in those communities, it is something we all as Rhode Islanders have a responsibility to address," she said.

The state is working hard to get to the bottom of the disparities.

“Our vision is that everyone has the equal opportunity to be healthy," she said.

People of color in Rhode Island have been the hardest hit, Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, acknowledged.

Immigrants may be afraid of coming forward, she said, thinking they cannot afford to be tested, fearing losing their jobs if they have to miss work, and tending to live in closer quarters, making isolation and distancing more difficult, she said.

Overall, Raimondo said, the numbers are encouraging.

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NUMBERS TRENDING DOWN

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Rhode Island and the number of new cases have dropped to their lowest levels since early April, the state Department of Health reported Monday.

The state reported 67 new cases, the lowest daily number since April 2, bringing the total to almost 15,000. The percentage of people being tested who are testing positive has dropped to about 3%, a far cry from the roughly 20% testing positive at the height of the crisis.

“It’s a confidence-inspiring set of information today,” Raimondo said.

The number of people hospitalized with the disease caused by the coronavirus as of Friday, the latest day for which the data was available, was 195, the fewest since April 7.

The state also reported two new deaths, bring the total number of fatalities to 720.

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ECONOMIC REOPENING

As part of the second phase of the state's economic restart, restaurants on Monday were allowed to offer indoor dining, by reservation only, but at just half of normal capacity.

Other restrictions include disposable or washable menus; tables at least 8 feet apart; and no gatherings in waiting areas.

“No one I know will be able to have 50%,” Anthony Lanni, owner of Il Fornello in North Providence, told The Providence Journal. Tables are normally tightly spaced. He said he will only be able to have seven or eight indoor tables.

Rhode Island’s malls also welcomed shoppers for the first time.

Providence Place and the Warwick Mall reopened at 11 a.m. Both were closed in mid-March.

The shopping centers placed hand-sanitizing stations in common areas and plan frequent cleanings. At Providence Place, the food court will be open but with adjusted seating to maintain social distancing.

Providence Place is also offering curbside pickup.

Hair stylists, nail salons, gyms, and child care centers are among the businesses being allowed to open with restrictions on Monday.

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INMATE TESTS POSITIVE

An inmate at Rhode Island's maximum security state prison has tested positive for the coronavirus, a prisons spokesman said.

The positive test Sunday was part of ongoing testing protocol at the Adult Correctional Institution’s Maximum Security facility, state Department of Corrections spokesman J.R. Ventura told WPRI-TV.

A total of five sentenced inmates and 14 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, he said.

“Our safety planning and proactive approach have generated positive results, placing us among the safest correctional institutions in the country,” Ventura said.