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Unemployment soars to 17% as gov says virus crisis easing

The coronavirus pandemic that forced the shutdown of businesses across Rhode Island sent the state’s unemployment rate soaring to 17% in April, the state Department of Labor and Training announced Thursday.

That’s up from 4.7% in March and 3.6% last April. The state shed almost 99,000 jobs from February to April, the agency said, but almost 89,000 of those losses were in April alone.

Rhode Island’s April unemployment rate was higher than the national rate of 14.7%, and higher than anything the state saw during the 2008 recession, when unemployment peaked at about 11.3%.

“Today’s jobs numbers convey the immense extent of economic hardship that the COVID-19 crisis has brought upon Rhode Island workers and families,” Scott Jensen, the state labour department director, said in a statement.



Raimondo suggested Thursday the state is “out of crisis mode” and moving into the recovery phase, based on the latest statistics on the virus’ spread.

“There is a light at the end of this tunnel," she said. "We're in good shape with containing the virus.”

The state Department of Health on Thursday reported 189 new positive cases of COVID-19, and 18 more deaths. That brings the state’s totals to nearly 13,600 cases and more than 550 fatalities.

The number of people hospitalized with the disease declined slightly to 254, according to the latest figures.



The state’s virus-related travel restrictions remain in effect as Memorial Day weekend approaches, Raimondo said Thursday. That means anyone coming to Rhode Island from out of state still has to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Meanwhile, businesses on the popular tourist destination of Block Island are bracing for a tough summer with fewer visitors than years past, Steven Filippi, president of the Block Island Tourism Council, told WPRI-TV.

Filippi, who owns Ballard’s Beach Resort, also said a number of island businesses might not open until after the holiday weekend in order to meet new state guidelines for reopening safely.

“If we have a poor year, where we’re down 30% or 40%, you’re going to see economic damage that is permanent, and I’m afraid Block Island will never recover,” he told the station.



The state is releasing guidelines for the opening summer camps on June 29.

Among the requirements to be posted on is that camp participants must be screened each day, Gov. Raimondo said Thursday.

They also must be kept in small, stable groups of no more than 15 children that are supervised every day by the same adults.

Camps must also submit a COVID control plan to the state before opening, Raimondo said.



Rhode Island’s two casinos may not open until mid-June or early July, Raimondo said Thursday.

The continued closure of Twin River Casino in Lincoln and the Tiverton Casino Hotel in Tiverton comes as Connecticut’s Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos announced this week plans to reopen on June 1.

Massachusetts, meanwhile, has ordered its three casinos — Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park — closed at least until June 1.



Oscar-winning actor Viola Davis partnered with the Frontline Foods non-profit to sponsor 100 meals for staff at two Rhode Island hospitals.

Davis, who grew up in Central Falls, was joined by members of the cast of “How to Get Away With Murder,” which stars Davis, in sponsoring the meals Wednesday for workers at Hasbro Children’s and Rhode Island hospitals, The Providence Journal reported.

The meals were provided by South Kingstown’s Matunuck Oyster Bar.



Layoffs, furloughs and salary freezes are possible in the Providence public schools if anticipated state and city aid increase does not come through, officials said at a school board meeting.

If the district does not receive the full funding increase, it will have to make additional reductions in order to make the necessary investments for the upcoming school year, Chief Operating Officer Zack Scott said at Wednesday’s meeting, WJAR-TV reported.

Mark Pratt And Philip Marcelo, The Associated Press