Face Covers Now Required for Everyone

by | May 5, 2020

If alone, you don’t necessarily have to wear it but you do have to have it with you.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

After two days of confirmed new cases below 200, the number of new cases Tuesday was 281, bringing the state’s total of COVID-19 cases to 9,933. There were 14 new deaths announced Tuesday; so far 355 Rhode Islanders have died of the coronavirus. Hospital numbers remained stable. A total of 2,299 tests were conducted since Monday. Find the Dept. of Health’s data dashboard HERE.

In March, Gov. Gina Raimondo mandated face covers for employees of public facing businesses in March and encouraged everyone else to wear them when outside the home. On Tuesday, Raimondo said Rhode Islanders must have a face cover on them at all times when outside the home, and they must be worn when inside buildings other than home and when you come into contact with people beyond your small circle of contacts (usually just the people you live with). The order will take effect Friday, May 8, coinciding with the anticipated end to the governor’s stay-at-home order.

“As we enter Phase I of our economic reopening . . . we’re going to have to do better with wearing our face coverings,” Raimondo said during her daily COVID-19 press conference at the State House. (Find more info about that HERE.) She said there will be exceptions for very young children, some people with developmental disabilities, and those with underlying conditions that would make wearing a mask unsafe.

If you don’t already have a face cover or face mask (even a scarf will do), “now is the time.” 

“Think of it like your car keys, your phone, your wallet,” Raimondo said. Don’t leave your house without your face mask and be prepared to wear it at any time when you’re within 6 feet of anyone you’re not with all the time, she said.

Gov. Gina Raimondo in April.

“The mask helps in stopping transmission of the virus from one person to another or a person to an object,” explained state Dept. of Health’s Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. The covers can be surgical masks if you can get them but people should NOT be wearing N95 masks, which are still in short supply and are needed by health care workers and first responders. Cloth covers, bandanas or scarves all work. Find a list of local mask providers HERE.

Anticipating questions, Raimondo raised some scenarios: 

  • Do you need to wear it while walking alone or with someone with whom you live? No
  • Do you need to wear it while running alone? No.
  • Do you need to wear it while bike riding with your kids? No.
  • Do you need to wear it going through a drive through? Yes.
  • Do you need to have it with you any time you are away from home? Yes.

Raimondo said civil penalties will be explained in the order when it is unveiled on Friday. But, she said, “We’re going to be reasonable and use common sense,” adding, “I need you to do your very best.”

When asked about comments from Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza about possibly not relaxing the stay at home order this weekend, as Raimondo is planning to do, the governor said she was talking with the mayor. 

“On the one hand, I’d like to see uniformity across the state. It’s a small state. Having said that, we also know this disease really varies from place to place,” she said. “If it comes to that, I’ll respect it but I’d like to have it work so we can speak with one voice.”

Raimondo said she would be sharing more information about testing and contact tracing on Wednesday and about travel into the state on Thursday. 

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