By Elizabeth F. McNamara
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide dropped for the second day in a row, with 269 new positives, for a total of 7,708 cases. There were 7 deaths since Sunday, bringing the state total to 231. All 7 of those who died had lived in congregate care facilities. The number of cases in East Greenwich is up to 37.
Gov. Gina Raimondo outlined her plan to reopen the state at her daily COVID-19 briefing from the State House Monday, saying decisions to move forward to be made based on the data at every step.
“My goal is to stand here two weeks from today to announce I’m lifting the stay-at-home order,” Raimondo said, encouraging all Rhode Islanders to make that their goal by continuing to sit tight until May 8. She did say in some ways the state was ahead of the game because manufacturing and construction were never shut down, as they were in places like New York.
And several of the pieces needed to reopen – such as widespread testing, a robust contact tracing system, overflow hospital capacity and the ability to deliver meals to those in quarantine – are in pretty good shape in Rhode Island. That helps, Raimondo said.
“I need you to have some confidence because I won’t allow us to go back to work unless we are ready.”
Raimondo’s watch words? Planning, flexibility and adaptability.
“It’s not going to be a flick of a switch,” she said. “We’re going to do a little, collect the data, do a little more, collect the data….”
Noting that it will be “slow, pinpointed, gradual,” Raimondo said if the state does it right, Monday, May 11 (when Phase I could begin) won’t look that much different than May 9 or May 10.
Leaning on Rhode Island’s nautical heritage, the reopening plan is titled “Weathering the Storm,” with Phase I named “Testing the Water.” (Find the whole plan HERE and a link to the RI Reopening website HERE.)
Under Phase I:
The stay at home order is lifted, but social gatherings are limited to 10 people. Older adults (65+) and those with underlying health conditions can go to work and go out for food or medicine. But in accordance with federal public health guidance, vulnerable individuals are strongly encouraged to otherwise stay home. Masks, vigilant hand-washing and increased cleaning must remain in place. And everyone who can work from home should still work from home. All activities must account for strong social distancing guidelines of remaining 6 feet apart.
- Some parks begin to reopen with strong social distancing guidelines.
- Elective medical procedures resume under new safety protocols.
- Primary care and community health providers remain open. Other allied health professions reopen with updated safety protocols (i.e. physical therapists, behavioral therapists, etc.). Pilot reopening of dentists’ offices under strict new regulations.
- Limited childcare options are available with strong social distancing guidelines.
- School buildings remain closed, and distance learning continues.
- Retail locations allow in-store pickup of pre-orders. There is potential for allowing browsing under new restrictions.
- Offices should emphasize remote work but can allow limited numbers of employees on site in accordance with new guidelines.
- Restaurants remain open for pickup, delivery, and drive-through (with offerings modestly expanded). Pilots of seated dining begin, including outdoor dining.
- Pilot openings of hair salons and barbers begin with significant restrictions to protect public health and safety.
- Manufacturers and construction sites continue operations under existing and evolving guidance.
How long Phase I lasts depends on the data. Here’s what Phase II looks like:
In the second phase, we can look forward to more businesses reopening and restrictions being further relaxed.
Expanded childcare options will be available under strict public health guidelines. More restaurants, retail and close-contact businesses like hair and nail salons may open. Additional recreational options will likely return including more parks and beaches, but restrictions remain. Social gathering limits increase to 15 people. Older adults (65+) and those with underlying health conditions can go to work and go out for food or medicine. But in accordance with federal public health guidance, vulnerable individuals are still strongly encouraged to otherwise stay home. Masks, vigilant handwashing and increased cleaning must remain in place. Offices will ease capacity restrictions allowing more people to come in, but many people will still work from home. All activities must account for strong social distancing guidelines of remaining 6-feet apart.
The start of Phase III will, again, be dictated by what happens in Phase II. Here’s the broad outline of what to expect – but it is very subject to change depending on the first two phases.
We can look forward to schools opening with restrictions and seeing more of our families and friends. Offices, restaurants, retail and other businesses will lift some of the tightest restrictions to allow more people in at one time but will need to operate under long-term safety guidelines. Social gatherings are limited to 50 people. Older adults (65+) and those with underlying health conditions are no longer strongly encouraged to stay home. These individuals are reminded to exercise significant caution in public. Masks, vigilant hand-washing and increased cleaning must remain in place. Working from home is still encouraged where possible but more people will return to the workplace. All activities must account for strong social distancing guidelines of remaining 6-feet apart.
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