Block Island orders lockdown, R.I. jobless claims surge

The tourist haven of Block Island became the state’s first community to order residents to shelter in place as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Rhode Island continues to climb.

Local officials on Tuesday said they’re also strongly discouraging second homeowners and other visitors from traveling to the island, and ordering them to self-quarantine for at least 14 days if they do.

For full-time residents, they're asking people to restrict off-island travel to essential trips such as seeking medical care or obtaining food or other vital provisions.

Hotels, inns and rental homes, meanwhile, have been ordered to cancel reservations for the duration of the lockdown, which is effective Tuesday evening through April 15.

Violators could be fined up to $500 or sentenced to up to 30 days in jail.

Jessica Willi, executive director of the Block Island Tourism Council, said in a statement that officials are concerned about the island’s limited medical capacity in the event of an outbreak.

As of Tuesday, there were no confirmed cases of the coronavirus on the island, which is located about 12 miles offshore. It has about 1,000 year-round residents and swells to nearly 20,000 visitors a day in the summer.

Gov. Gina Raimondo voiced support Tuesday for the island's order, but stressed she’s not prepared to take similar steps statewide.

The Democrat said it is “completely appropriate” for popular tourist destinations, including Newport and Westerly, to impose their own restrictions.

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UNEMPLOYMENT SURGING

More than 50,000 Rhode Islanders have filed claims for jobless benefits as a result of the pandemic, state labor officials said Tuesday.

Raimondo said the number of residents seeking unemployment and temporary disability benefits has exceeded what the state saw during the Great Recession of 2008 and the banking crisis in the 1990s.

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STATE FINANCES

State lawmakers are considering borrowing up to $300 million to help the state cover its bills during the economic shutdown from the pandemic.

The state General Assembly has called a rare meeting of its Disaster Emergency Funding Board to discuss “options for funding the state’s financial demands" on Thursday.

State Treasurer Seth Magaziner has warned the state is potentially weeks away from running out of money, and Raimondo has said she's working to secure emergency lines of credit.

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CHILD CARE CENTERS

Certain child care centers in Rhode Island will soon be able to reopen, following emergency guidelines to be released by the state, Raimondo announced Tuesday.

The governor also said the Boys And Girls Club, Greater Providence YMCA, and others will be offering on-site care for children of certain hospital workers.

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NEW CASES

Rhode Island has more than 120 cases of the coronavirus, up nearly 20 since Monday, health officials said Tuesday.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

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SUPPLY DONATIONS

Rhode Island-based retailer Ocean State Job Lot is donating $250,000 worth of gloves, masks, disinfectants, sanitizers, and other supplies to local government agencies and medical facilities to help combat the virus.

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Associated Press reporter Mark Pratt in Boston contributed to this story.

 

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