Above: Gov. Gina Raimondo at Friday’s coronavirus briefing. Pool photo: Sandor Bodo / Providence Journal
By Hope McKinney
On the eve of the start of reopening the Rhode Island economy, all the numbers trended downward, with the number of new COVID-19 cases at 249 Friday. The total number of cases in Rhode Island was 10,779. There were 11 deaths, for a total of 399. The total number of cases in East Greenwich, 47, has not been updated since Monday. Hospital numbers went down to 312 people in the hospital with coronavirus-related illness, 71 people in the ICU and 52 people on ventilators. Find the Dept. of Health’s data dashboard HERE.
At her daily COVID-19 briefing Friday afternoon at the State House, Gov. Gina Raimondo urged residents to adopt a slow and steady approach in preparation for the stay-at-home order being lifted tomorrow.
As of tomorrow, under what’s being called Phase One of the state’s reopening plan, nonessential businesses like clothing and gift stores are allowed to reopen, with significant capacity limits (read more HERE and HERE). Raimondo signed a new executive order Friday that lays out the rules of Phase One (find it HERE). It allows the Department of Health to enforce the health and safety regulations on businesses. This includes graduated fines and the ability to shut down a business that is found to be noncompliant. There will also be an enforcement task force made up of inspectors from the Department of Business Regulation, the Department of Health and other areas of government to educate businesses on safety, conduct inspections and enforce regulations.
“We’re not going to be out there trying to shut you down,” Raimondo said. “We’re gonna be out there bending over backwards to help you stay open and to do it safely. But if you refuse and you’re continually noncompliant, we will have to shut you down. I hate the thought of that and I hope we never have to do it.”
The consequence for businesses that do not comply with regulations will include a series of fines. Details of this will be found on ReopeningRI.com. Raimondo urged business owners to submit their ideas about what would be best for them in regard to reopening their business through the website, as well.
In general, Raimondo said she wanted to encourage, enable and support voluntary compliance in order to keep residents safe and businesses open.
“Do the right thing,” Raimondo said. “Know the rules. Follow the rules. Don’t think you’re invincible. If you try to sneak around the rules, bad things will happen.”
She reiterated that the domestic travel order is still in place, which means if you travel to Rhode Island from any other state for any reason besides work, buying necessities or going to the hospital, you have to quarantine yourself for 14 days.
Although residents can look forward to going back to parks and being able to shop again as retail stores begin to reopen, Raimondo urged people to continue to stay 6 feet away from others, stay home when sick and wash hands constantly. If you are tested positive, isolate. Do not engage in social gatherings of more than five people and make it a priority to have a mask on you at all times.
“We’re gonna be living with the virus for awhile,” Raimondo said. “Just because we’re reopening the economy and reopening society doesn’t mean the virus has gone away. It’s still here and it’s still dangerous. That means we have to be really careful.”
Raimondo emphasized the importance of continuing to follow guidelines on Mother’s Day this Sunday. Visitation to assisted living and nursing home facilities remains strictly forbidden.
“Stay home and get together virtually if you can,” Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Department of Health, said. “Call the mom in your life this weekend. Do a video chat if possible. Just hearing someone’s voice or connecting with them is such a tremendous gift, especially during this time.”
We know this is a challenging time for everyone. If you are able, please consider supporting local news with a donation. Use the Donate button below or send a check to EG News, 18 Prospect St., EG, RI 02818. And if you need some help, let us know: contact [email protected]. Together we are stronger.