RI to relax some COVID rules after pause helped slow spread
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) —
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo will end a three-week “pause” of the state’s recovery plans after she said it helped slow the spread of the coronavirus.
During the pause, bars, gyms, casinos and theaters were closed and restaurants had to limit indoor dining to a third of their normal capacity. Those restrictions will be eased beginning Monday, though many of the same now-familiar restrictions will remain in place. Restaurants, for instance, will be limited to 50% indoor capacity.
Raimondo said the pause succeeded in slowing the rise in cases and hospitalizations, noting that the state’s daily percentage of positive COVID tests has dropped to 4.4% from 10% just a few weeks ago.
Still, Raimondo urged Rhode Islanders to remain cautious, especially as the holidays approach and residents are tempted to travel or socialize outside their household.
“That’s a hard message for me to deliver,” Raimondo, a Democrat, said Friday. “We’re all going to have to reinvent our family traditions... I’m asking you to please celebrate with the people that you live with.”
Rhode Island is one of more than a dozen states told to expect far fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine next week.
Raimondo said she hasn’t received an explanation from the federal government for why its dose allocation for next week will be cut from 10,725 to 6,825.
“We are calling on the Trump administration to honor its commitments and provide the full allocation,” Raimondo, a Democrat, said in a statement Thursday evening. “In the meantime, we are continuing to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible to our frontline healthcare workers.”
Several states say they have been told to expect far fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in its second week of distribution, prompting worries about potential delays in shots for health care workers and long-term care residents.
Senior Trump administration officials on Thursday downplayed the risk of delays, citing a confusion over semantics and changes to the delivery schedule, while Pfizer said its production levels have not changed.
In her statement, Raimondo said the state is reviewing how the change in doses will impact the state’s immunization plan.
Rhode Island reported 23 additional coronavirus-related deaths and nearly 400 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
The state Department of Health also said there were 459 patients in Rhode Island hospitals with the virus, with 56 of them in intensive care.
There have been 1,625 deaths and nearly 78,000 known cases of the virus in the state since the pandemic started.
Rhode Island’s seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate has hovered around 7% the past two weeks. It’s average of daily new cases has risen from 1,033 new cases per day on Dec. 3 to 1,149 new cases per day on Dec. 17.
So far, more than 1,225 people in Rhode Island have received their first dose of vaccine.