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Businesses reopen as Rhode Island’s 3-week ‘pause’ is lifted

December 21, 2020 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Some Rhode Island businesses are allowed to reopen or increase capacity Monday now that Gov. Gina Raimondo’s “pause” to help control the latest coronavirus surge has ended.

The Democratic governor decided to lift the three-week pause because of what she called “sustained decreases” in percent positivity rates which it is hoped will stop hospitals from being flooded with coronavirus patients.

Businesses including gyms, casinos and indoor recreation facilities such as bowling alleys are allowed to reopen Monday, while restaurants are allowed to increase indoor capacity from 33% to 50%.

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“It will be nice to finally open back up tomorrow and get some families back in here,” East Providence Lanes manager Michael Sedoma told WJAR-TV on Sunday. “It’s not easy not having income coming in. We had to layoff all of the employees right before Christmas.”

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POSITIVE TRENDS

The state’s seven-day average positivity rate and seven-day average of daily new cases are trending in the right direction.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island went from 8.84% on Dec. 6 to 6.5% on Sunday. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island did not increase over the past two weeks, declining from almost 1,272 on Dec. 6 to more than 613 on Sunday, according to the project.

The Rhode Island Department of Health on Monday reported 2,352 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 45 additional virus-related fatalities in the past three days.

The department also reported a revised total of 25 virus-related deaths on Dec. 13, a single-day total during the pandemic. The state’s reported death toll now stands at 1,670 patients.

The department does not update its numbers on weekends.

The state also reported Monday that more than 4,800 people have received their first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

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NONPROFIT GRANTS

The Rhode Island Foundation has distributed $5 million in federal stimulus funding to 120 nonprofits across the state that are helping people cope with the pandemic, including $1 million in direct assistance to address COVID-19 impacts on domestic violence survivors, the organization announced Monday.

Most of the funding, about $4 million, is going to support nonprofits offering new or expanded services. Eligible uses of funds are limited to new, direct costs incurred in providing the services or direct assistance, including increased staffing, equipment and material.

The remaining $1 million is going to eight organizations that help domestic violence survivors.

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence will use its grant to respond to the increase in demand for shelters and COVID-19 compliant housing and services for victims of domestic violence.

“We’ve seen a surge in calls to domestic violence support lines since March, with the majority of victims requesting emergency housing, counseling and other advocacy services during the pandemic,” Executive Director Tonya Harris said in a statement.