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Governor: Large gatherings, eating out at restaurants banned

March 16, 2020 GMT
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Darcy Coleman opens the door to Rebelle Artisan Bagels to talk with customers waiting for their online order after the restaurant closed their doors to dine-in service Monday, March 16, 2020, in Providence, R.I. State officials on Monday ordered restaurants and bars to end dine-in service as the total number of cases of the new coronavirus in the state has risen to 21. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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Darcy Coleman opens the door to Rebelle Artisan Bagels to talk with customers waiting for their online order after the restaurant closed their doors to dine-in service Monday, March 16, 2020, in Providence, R.I. State officials on Monday ordered restaurants and bars to end dine-in service as the total number of cases of the new coronavirus in the state has risen to 21. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Rhode Island officials on Monday banned large gatherings, ordered restaurants and bars to end dine-in service, and shuttered some state government operations as the total number of cases of the new coronavirus in the state has risen to 21.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Here’s the latest coronavirus developments in the state:

LARGE GATHERINGS BANNED

Rhode Islanders have been ordered not to host or attend gatherings of 25 people or more.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said that’s in line with recent restrictions imposed in neighboring Massachusetts.

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NO DINING OUT

Effective Tuesday through March 30, there will be no on-premise food consumption for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, or other food establishments in Rhode Island.

Establishments with a food license can continue to conduct pick-up, drive-through and delivery service, Raimondo said.

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STATE OFFICES CLOSED

The Rhode Island Statehouse will be closed to visitors and certain popular government services will be curtailed effective Tuesday, Raimondo announced.

The Department of Motor Vehicles will close its satellite offices, driving tests will be suspended, and residents who have licenses expiring this month, will get a 30-day grace period, she said.

The state Department of Human Services and the Department of Labor and Training will also stop accepting in-person customers.

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LOCAL GOVERNMENTS

Cities and towns are being encouraged to postpone local meetings for at least 30 days if there’s nothing critical on the agenda, Raimondo said.

The governor will also sign an executive order suspending the state’s Open Meetings Act.

She said local boards and commissions will be allowed to host public meetings by phone or video conference so long as the public has a chance to participate.

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MALL SHUTTERED

The popular, downtown Providence Place Mall will be shut down, effective Tuesday, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza announced Monday.

The Democrat also noted his administration ordered two local establishments — a strip club and a cafe— to close until further notice over the weekend for large crowds.

Gov. Raimondo encouraged the state’s other malls to take similar steps.

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CHURCHES CLOSED

Catholic churches in Rhode Island are suspending Mass services effective Tuesday until further notice, Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin announced.

Funerals and weddings may continue, but every effort should be made to limit the size of the crowd, he said.

Churches should also remain open during the day for personal prayer, confessions and other smaller scale religious practices where possible, Tobin added.

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SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF

The state will seek special federal funding to help small business owners weather the virus’ widening economic impacts, Raimondo said Monday.

The “economic injury disaster declaration” would allow small businesses to receive low-interest loans to cover operational costs, the governor said.

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FEDERAL FRUSTRATION

Raimondo said Rhode Island needs faster access to its stockpile of personal protective equipment for health care workers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She also urged the federal authorities to pass a stimulus package to help states replenish their unemployment insurance coffers, among other things.

“I am out of patience. I don’t know how to get through to them,” Raimondo said. “This is not okay how the federal government is responding to this. We all need to raise our voices.”

President Donald Trump and administration officials have repeatedly defended criticism of their handling of the crisis, but on Monday he stuck to his optimistic tone, saying on Twitter: “” Everybody is so well unified and working so hard.

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