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Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo says state employee layoffs are probable, although not imminent, because of the ongoing economic shutdown. 

She made the announcement during her daily briefing on Saturday.

“The last thing I want to do is contribute to the state’s unemployment problem,’ Raimondo said. ‘As long as we are in a position to avoid layoffs, I want to try to do that.  We may get to a point where layoffs and furloughs are inevitable.”

Several protesters gathered outside the State House during the governor’s briefing to protest the shutdown.

“I certainly respect their opinion and their ability to protest,’ Raimondo said.  (But) to violate social distancing rules, it’s just selfish.  Look around.  Rhode Islanders are struggling.  It’s not a time to be selfish.”

Raimondo says she’ll discuss the process of re-opening the state’s economy during her Monday briefing. 

State Health Department director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott addressed concerns about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls.  She says between five and ten inmates at the facility have tested positive.   

“Our state epidemiologist has been in touch with the medical director at the facility every day since that first case was identified,’ Alexander-Scott said.  ‘They have a plan in place to isolate patients who are ill and to prevent transmission.”

“There are challenges associated with moving patients in a correctional facility, but facilities have plans in place to manage difficult medical situations like this.  We’re testing the staff in the facility and we’re actively supporting their management in this situation.”

Governor Raimondo is also continuing her efforts to better understand why the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately impacted members of the state’s Latino community.  She’ll be hosting a Facebook town hall event on Tuesday night with Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green, who will communicate in Spanish.   

The governor went on to promote the Rhode Island Artist Relief Fund.  She says the state has raised an additional $15,000 for the fund, which is assisting local artists who are currently out of work.  

The state has created a new website that provides access to various resources designed to help artists.  RIArts.org also features an up-to-date schedule of virtual performances across Rhode Island.

The website is part of a new arts initiative.  Raimondo is encouraging state residents to share drawings, poetry, music and other forms of art on social media as a way to connect with each other during the pandemic. 

Joe Tasca can be reached at jtasca@ripr.org