Gov. Gina Raimondo declared a state of emergency in Rhode Island Monday.
The announcement came shortly after Lifespan — the state's largest hospital network — said it would suspend visits to patients.
"We need to take action," she told assembled reporters during a press conference. "This is real, this is here. We expect more cases.
"We are monitoring what is happening in other countries and other states."
The emergency declaration will enable the state to access more federal resources to fight the virus, Raimondo's office said.
Raimondo also said officials were rolling out a series of new COVID-19 response measures to support employers, employees and nursing homes throughout the state.
Raimondo said the Department of Labor and Training is filing an emergency regulation to expand access to unemployment insurance, temporary disability insurance and temporary caregiver insurance to help Rhode Islanders impacted by COVID-19. The emergency regulations will waive a number of the requirements including the seven-day waiting period and the medical certification for individuals under quarantine.
A number of measures affecting nursing homes were also announced.
“Early data show that older adults are twice as likely to experience serious illness from COVID-19, and nursing home residents may be especially vulnerable,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott. “It is absolutely critical that people not enter nursing homes if they are sick or who have recently traveled to a place with widespread community COVID-19 transmission.”
Under the new regulations, nursing homes are now limiting when visitors can enter, not admitting visitors younger than 18 and only allowing residents to leave for medical appointments. They are also screening visitors, staff, vendors, entertainers and anyone who enters for illness or recent travel history.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, there are currently three positive cases of the virus in the state. There are another six with pending tests and approximately 290 people instructed to self-quarantine due to direct contact with a person with the virus. So far, 53 people have tested negative for the virus.
Rhode Island will keep data updated regularly online.