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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Short Takes #8 on COVID-19 in Rhode Island

Grim numbers and grimmer to come
By Will Collette

At Tuesday’s daily pandemic briefing Gov. Gina Raimondo addressed the stats in a new University of Washington report. According to the Boston Globe, that report predicts 265 COVID-19 related deaths by June 10. They also set April 20 as Rhode Island’s peak.

Gov. Raimondo said the state’s modelling shows “that peak is farther out” than April 20 as well as a higher death toll.

Of course these projections are just that. Circumstances beyond our control as well as things we CAN control (like strictly adhering to social distancing coupled with the feds doing their jobs to supply test kits and medical equipment) can change those numbers.

The University of Washington report predicts a nationwide peak on April 16 and more than 90,000 dead by June.

In today’s news briefing, the Governor reiterated her warning that the UW study may be too optimistic as she announced two more deaths, bringing our current total to 10.

Help wanted

Governor Raimondo is also asking retired doctors, nurses and health care workers to step up. In New York, tens of thousands of retirees have answered a similar call from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Over 100,000 Rhode Islanders are out of work

Before the pandemic, just under 20,000 were out of work. But as COVID-19 starts to bite hard on our economy, almost 90,000 more workers have filed for benefits.
That number is going to climb. There will be a big spike in claims when the new federal Pandemic Unemployment program for the self-employed, small businesses, independent contractors, etc. starts up. I noted in Short Takes #6 that DLT is encouraging workers who normally are not eligible for unemployment insurance to sign up for their e-mail list to get word on when to apply.
Today, according to the marketing survey firm WalletHub, Rhode Island’s economy is ranked the second highest “most vulnerable” to the economic effects of COVID-19. The only state that is deemed more vulnerable is #1 ranked Louisiana.
Well, we’ve been high on lists like that before.
Charlestown closes town beaches and parks
After yesterday’s announcement by Gov. Raimondo, Charlestown issued an order today closing Charlestown’s beaches and parks though town conservation areas are, at present, not closed. You can see this notice on the town’s unofficial/official CCA website.
Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz e-mailed me a copy earlier today.
The CCA also buried the March 28 piece they had on their website that promoted active use of town’s open spaces.
It would be nice to see the town’s official website feature all COVID-related Charlestown official news rather than see that function delegated to the CCA. After all, town hall employees are expected to come in to work every day with no option other than to use personal leave. Forget about working from home.
Since town hall is closed to residents, perhaps the website could get more attention.
Re-open Obamacare enrollment
As millions lose their jobs due to COVID-19, many are also losing their health insurance. It’s hard to think of a worst time to be uninsured than during a death-dealing pandemic.
Trump had been asked to re-start and to allow the newly unemployed to get health care under the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). Naturally, the Trump Administration refused to re-open enrollment. They say they are “exploring other options”
Instead, Trump said last week that he is totally behind a lawsuit brought by Republican attorneys general to completely abolish Obamacare.
Scott MacKay of Rhode Island’s The Public’s Radio tweeted that Sen. Jack Reed called on Trump to reopen Obamacare enrollment, noting that before the pandemic we had 28 million uncovered Americans.
Rhode Island checks won’t bounce
RI General Treasurer Seth Magaziner has secured a $150 million line of credit from Bank of America to make sure the state can pay its bills. The state has drawn $25 million on that
The Pandemic Crash has drastically cut state revenue making it likely the state would run out of money within weeks.