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Rhode Island to lift pandemic restrictions by Memorial Day

April 22, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island is loosening its pandemic-related economic restrictions in time for Memorial Day weekend in May.

Democratic Gov. Dan McKee said Thursday that he plans to phase out regulations on mask-wearing, social distancing and capacity in certain locations that have been in place in some form for more than a year.

Starting May 7, he said, people will not be required to wear masks while outdoors and businesses will be able to increase their capacity to 80%, so long as people are spaced at least 3 feet (1 meter) apart.

Restaurants won’t have any capacity limits for outdoor dining and will be able to reopen outdoor bars, he added.

Capacity limits, which have also been imposed on retail stores, gyms, church and other locations, will then be fully lifted on May 28, as will limits on the sizes of parties and other social gatherings, McKee said.

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Masks will still be required indoors after May 28, however.

“It’s a little early to put a ‘mission accomplished’ sign up, but we’re getting ready to order that sign,” said McKee. “The work is still ahead of us, and we need to make sure that we’re disciplined and that we are following the protocols.”

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VACCINE DEMAND

Rhode Island’s governor says the state needs to step up its outreach as demand for the vaccine is starting to slow.

The Providence Journal reports thousands of new appointments made available earlier this week went largely unclaimed on the state’s booking website, vaccinateri.org. The state expanded eligibility to all residents 16 and older on Monday.

“We’re in that mode where we need to do the reach-outs in every way we can,” Gov. Dan McKee said Tuesday, the Journal reports.

The Democratic governor has said he hopes to have 70% of the state’s adult population vaccinated by next month. As of Wednesday, more than half of Rhode Island residents 16 and older had received at least one dose.

Morgan Leonard, director of clinic operations at Clinica Esperanza in Providence, tells the newspaper that the slowing demand for the vaccine isn’t necessarily from younger residents who are less at risk of serious complications from the virus, but from all age ranges.

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THEATER SEASON CANCELLED

A prominent Rhode Island theater is cancelling its summer season because of uncertainty around pandemic-related restrictions.

Theatre-by-the-Sea in South Kingstown said Wednesday that most shows will be moved to the 2022 summer season and any tickets and subscription packages purchased will automatically be transferred.

A planned, pre-season production of “Mamma Mia!” will now run near the end of the summer, from Aug. 18 to Sept. 5, owner and producer Bill Hanney told theater subscribers.

He said the theater hopes to present other entertainment this summer.

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VIRUS CASES

State health officials on Thursday reported two more deaths and more than 300 new COVID-19 cases.

The state Department of Health also said some 140 people are currently hospitalized with the virus.

Rhode Island’s death toll from COVID-19 is at 2,660. The state’s average of daily new cases has dropped, from about 385 new cases per day on April 6 to roughly 342 per day on April 20.