By Hope McKinney
The state Department of Health said there were 73 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Rhode Island to 16,606. There were also 6 deaths, for a total of 912. The number of new cases in East Greenwich remains at 78. Find all the most recent data at the DOH data hub HERE.
At Gov. Gina Raimondo’s COVID-19 press conference Wednesday, she announced the return of sports games for no-contact and low-contact sports, increased parking capacity at beaches and online alternatives to help facilitate beach visits.
For Phase 3, no-contact and low-contact sports games – baseball, softball, tennis, golf – for youth and adult sports will be allowed between stable groups with no limit on overall group size. “Stable groups” means the same players and coaches together over the course of the summer.
Teams in the state and outside of the state will be allowed to play with each other, as long as there isn’t a stay-at-home order or other travel restrictions in the state the other team comes from.
Spectators will be allowed at these games while wearing masks, but Raimondo recommended no more than two spectators per player to keep crowds down. Players will also be encouraged to wear masks as well when practical, though she recognized they often won’t be.
Athletes who play close-contact sports – basketball, soccer, football – are still discouraged from playing these types of games. They must stick to practices, drills and scrimmages. As of now, she said this will be one of the last things to come back due to the high risk of spreading the virus.
“I’m asking every parent of a child who plays sports, every coach, every athletic director who’s involved in summer sports – be responsible,” she said. “Be creative. Use your very best judgment so that we all stay safe.”
More details on youth and adult sports for Phase 3 can be found HERE.
Raimondo also announced that parking restrictions at beaches will increase from 50 percent capacity to 75 percent capacity this weekend. This means there will be over 2,000 additional parking spaces. However, she warned that this increase does not mean social distancing guidelines can be glossed over.
“I’m putting my faith in the people of Rhode Island,” she said. “If in the next two or three weekends we see no mask-wearing, large groups of people bunching up, I will go back to where we were – 50 percent capacity or less at beaches.”
She also announced that season passes and parking passes will no longer be sold in-person at beaches. They can instead be purchased HERE to cut down on lines and decrease person to person interaction.
By this weekend, Raimondo said a new tool will likely be launched that will allow visitors to check the status of parking lots on a specific beach at a particular time. This will be available HERE. This will be a convenient way to check whether or not a parking lot is full before heading over to the beach of your choice.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut just joined together to do a mandatory quarantine for travelers from states with a high-spread rate of the virus. Raimondo said she believes this is a good idea but needs a couple more days to figure out how to go about it.
“I didn’t join with them today because I’m still looking at it,” she said. “I’m likely going to do something similar, if not the same.”
Raimondo acknowledged the increase of new cases in 33 other states, emphasizing how quickly things can change when rules aren’t followed.
“Not every state is in the situation we’re in,” she said. “If we get complacent, we’re gonna be right back where we were when we started this. There’s no reason that has to happen.”
As Phase 3 gets closer, many people still have questions about visiting nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the state health department, said her department is helping each facility develop guidelines. So far, 40 facilities have submitted reopening plans.
She noted visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities will look different. Wearing masks and social distancing will be required, visits may take place outside, and visitors may need to make appointments.
“Our plan is to move safely, steadily and incrementally,” she said. “All facilities are different. We are going to be working with each facility on the timing and make sure they’re able to have the experience and safety practices in place that are needed.”
She said DOH sent guidance to these facilities to restart communal dining and activities. Residents at assisted living facilities began following this guidance on Monday, while nursing home residents began today.
As more people begin to return to work, Raimondo noted the importance of staying home from work if you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. On top of the 5 days required by state law to stay home if you’re feeling sick, the federal government has guaranteed 10 paid days of sick leave.
If you can’t work because you have COVID-19, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. If you have symptoms which prevent you from working, you may also qualify for the state’s temporary disability insurance. To see if you qualify, reach out to the Department of Labor and Training.
This Saturday will be the last day of testing at the Twin River testing in Lincoln. However, Raimondo reminded residents that there are still 10 CVS drive-through testing sites (find them HERE).
As the National Guard decreases its involvement in testing, steps are being made to integrate testing into communities permanently, she said.
“We are moving in the direction of putting the testing right in the community – integrated into our public health system, pharmacy system, network of primary care providers, hospitals and community health clinics,” Raimondo said.
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