Governor issues sweeping restrictions to stymie virus spread
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Gov. Gina Raimondo issued an advisory aimed at keeping people home late at night, a mask mandate and other new restrictions on Thursday in an effort to slow the increasing spread of coronavirus in Rhode Island.
Starting Sunday, the Democrat said face masks will be required whenever people are with others that they don’t live with, including when outdoors.
Residents will also be asked to remain at home from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. on weeknights and 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends.
Restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses must end in-person service at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 10:30 p.m. weekends, though restaurants will be allowed to continue offering takeout after the closing time.
Raimondo said impacted eateries will qualify for state grants ranging from $2,000 and $10,000 to help cover lost revenue.
Capacity at Walmart, Target and other big box stores will be reduced to one person per 150 square feet.
Indoor venues will be restricted to 50% capacity and a maximum of 125 people. Outdoor venues will be limited to 66% capacity, with a maximum of 150 patrons.
New limits are also being imposed on catered events, and businesses are being asked to cancel nonessential travel. On the other hand, limits on spectators at indoor sporting events that were imposed last week will be eased starting Monday, the governor said.
Last week, Raimondo pared back the limit on social gatherings to 10 people, ordered hospitals and nursing homes to restrict visits, among other temporary measures.
On Thursday, she warned she would have to impose even tougher restrictions — including a broader economic shutdown — in two weeks if residents continue to ignore basic safety guidelines.
“We really can’t afford another lockdown,” Raimondo said, highlighting a large party thrown by teens in Bristol last week that has since led to more than 20 confirmed virus cases and put 350 people in quarantine. “Right now is a very fragile moment.”
A look at other coronavirus developments in Rhode Island:
Rhode Island health officials reported more than 500 new confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths on Thursday.
About 180 people are currently in the hospital with COVID-19, according to health officials.
The latest average positivity rate in Rhode Island is 3.44%. 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.
More than 1,200 people have died and more than 35,000 have tested positive for the virus in the state since the pandemic started.
A major hospital operator in the state is restricting visits at its facilities.
Care New England said general visitation at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence is temporarily suspended.
Maternity patients may have a birth partner, surgical patients may have a support person and two support persons can be identified for each infant in the NICU.
The organization also announced restrictions at Bradley Hospital in East Providence and Kent Hospital in Warwick.
On Monday, Lifespan temporarily suspended all visits at its hospitals, which include Rhode Island Hospital, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, The Miriam Hospital, and Newport Hospital.