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The number of people hospitalized for coronavirus in Rhode Island has roughly tripled over the last week – to 41 – leading Gov. Gina Raimondo to warn about what she called the “fast spread" of the virus in the state.

Raimondo and state Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott also announced the fourth coronavirus related death in the state, a man in his 70s. Alexander-Scott said it was not immediately known if he had an underlying health issue.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island experienced its largest single-day increase so far, 114, to bring the state’s total to 408 cases.

“What that means is, right now, more important than ever, at any time, that we really stay clamped down, we really obey the social distancing rules, the hand-washing rules,” Raimondo said during her daily briefing. “And really, really try as hard as you can to limit your contact to the fewest number of people possible.”

As she has before, the governor warned that things will get worse before they get better, with a growing number of positive cases and deaths.

"The next few weeks are going to be very, very difficult," Raimondo said. "We're going to start to see cases rise, hospitalizations rise, unfortunately, death toll rise, here in Rhode Island and throughout the country."

In related news:

  • Raimondo extended through April the closing of all school buildings in Rhode Island. While distance learning has been difficult and disruptive, she said, it’s important to continue it. She said she will reevaluate the issue in the weeks ahead, and that schools may remain closed through May.
  • The governor said communications companies will offer complimentary wi-fi service to students who can not afford it.
  • Raimondo said the state is continuing to expand its testing capacity for coronavirus, with an ability to test about 500 people a day now. She said she expects that capacity to double later this week.
  • With legislative Republicans calling for the General Assembly to resume meetings, Raimondo said it’s not a good idea for lawmakers to gather in number, even if they maintain a distance from each other. She said legislators can best serve the public by remaining at home and sharing information with their constituents.

 Alexander-Scott repeated a call for people who have symptoms of illness or who even think they just have a common cold to remain in their homes and to avoid contact with others.