PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island’s death toll in the coronavirus pandemic has risen by six to 49 fatalities, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Friday, acknowledging the state is “totally overwhelmed” by a crush of unemployment claims.
The Democratic governor said 132,000 Rhode Islanders so far have filed claims for jobless benefits. She acknowledged delays in processing those claims and asked the public “for a bit of patience as we work the kinks out.”
Accelerated testing for COVID-19 has uncovered 288 more cases, Raimondo said, pushing the total to just over 2,000, with 169 people hospitalized.
Five of the six latest deaths involved nursing home residents, and one was a centenarian, said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.
In other virus-related developments:
Activists denouncing what they called overcrowding at a Rhode Island prison staged a protest outside it Friday, calling on authorities to release inmates before they become infected with COVID-19.
Organizers said they circled the facility in about 200 cars, honking their horns.
The action at the Donald M. Wyatt Detention Facility was organized by Never Again Action, a Jewish-led immigrant rights movement, and AMOR RI, an alliance of community-based grassroots organizations resisting individual and “state-sponsored” violence.
Authorities warned Rhode Islanders on Friday to wear masks, gather only in groups of five or fewer people and keep their distance from one another as they increasingly venture outdoors.
State environmental police said they’ll be monitoring fishing areas, bike paths and management areas that are still open to the public to make sure people observe strict social distancing rules.
Department of Environmental Protection chief Janet Coit said officers will issue citations to violators.
Rhode Island’s trout fishing season opens this weekend, but with limits designed to eliminate crowds and contain the outbreak.
Environmental police also urged residents to properly dispose of masks and gloves. The department said it has fielded complaints of people tossing them on the ground.
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