Rhode Island saw 566 new cases Wednesday – a new record – with a percent positive of 3.6 percent. The state ran 15,785 tests. There were 182 people in the hospital because of COVID-19 related illness and 8 people died. East Greenwich is up to 236 cases. On a side note, 47 percent of the EG population has been tested, the third highest testing ratio in the state. You can find all the data on the Dept. of Health’s website HERE.
Faced with a seeming unrelenting increase in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Gina Raimondo Thursday instituted a series of targeted restrictions in hopes of preventing the type of full-scale shutdown we saw last spring. This follows the first half of restrictions announced last Friday.
“We have to take our medicine. We can take our medicine now or we can take our medicine later,” she said at her weekly COVID-19 press conference. “If we wait … and try to outrun the virus, and take the medicine later, it’s going to be much harder. If you don’t want to have broad-based lockdowns … we have to really rein it in now.”
Raimondo outlined several rules that will go into effect on Sunday and will stay in effect for two weeks, noting that restrictions around Thanksgiving will be coming as well:
- A stay-at-home advisory (i.e. voluntary) on weekdays from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and from 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. “It’s an advisory. I am strongly advising you to be home,” she said. “We’re not going to be pulling cars over; we’re not going to have a heavy-handed approach.” So, if you have to go to work, or pick up diapers, or go to the emergency room, or want to take a walk, that’s ok, she said.
- All bars and restaurants must close at 10 p.m. weekdays, 10:30 p.m. weekends; take out and drive through can continue beyond that time. Raimondo said officials would not be walking into bars and restaurants at 10:30 on a Friday and booting everyone out. Rather, she said, she wanted bars and restaurants to take last call by that time. And, if the weather is good, like it’s going to be for the next several days, eat outdoors if possible. Officials have learned through contact tracing that people let their guard down as the night gets later, and that results in less safe behavior. Raimondo did say the state would be granting businesses affected by the early curfew between $2,000 and $10,000 to help offset loses. More info on that Monday, she said.
- A limit of 125 people for indoor gatherings, including for religious services. Raimondo asked religious leaders to “enable, allow and encourage” virtual services. The number of people allowed at a catered event will drop to 25 indoors and 75 outdoors. The governor did say those who’ve scheduled a special event in the next two weeks that is larger than that should contact the state Dept. of Business Regulation.
- Retail outlets must return to a one-person per 150-square-feet rule (from the current one person for every 100 square feet).
- Masks are required at all times when you are with people you don’t live with, including at the gym or at a social event.
- Indoor sports facilities may reopen with restrictions: a limit of two spectators per player and everyone – spectators and players alike – must wear masks at all times – practices as well as games. Out-of-state travel for sports competitions is no longer allowed for moderate-risk sports. In-state competitions and out-of-state travel are prohibited for risk sports. The sports rules will be in effect through the end of the year.
“Everything is designed so we don’t have to have a shutdown,” Raimondo said. She noted Rhode Island was aligning its guidance with neighboring states. With the earlier closing times for restaurants, however, Raimondo said her rule was more lenient than in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Rhode Island Hospitality Association issued a statement after the governor’s press conference, thanking her for working with the RIHA on the new closing times. Massachusetts and Connecticut are implementing a 9:30 p.m. closing time and that was Raimondo’s initial proposal, said RIHA President Dale Venturini.
“The additional restrictions are difficult for restaurants already struggling, but we are thankful that Governor Raimondo and Commerce RI listened to RIHA to minimize the impact as much as possible,” Venturini said.
Raimondo said the Bristol house party she’d mentioned at her press conference last week has been responsible for 21 positive cases so far, forcing 350 people into quarantine and affecting four school districts and multiple sports teams.
“If we don’t cut down on these parties, I will be back in two weeks with a shutdown order and that would be brutal,” she said.