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Elorza extends certain Prov. business closures to mid-April

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is extending his orders to close dine-in restaurants, the Providence Place Mall and a large number of other businesses for three more weeks.

Elorza signed an executive order extending his previous emergency orders — which initially expired on March 30 — to April 17. The order continues to ban dine-in restaurant service while allowing takeout and delivery, bans gatherings of 10 people or more, keeps the Providence Place mall closed and extends closures for certain businesses such as fitness centers, spas, beauty salons and barber shops.

The new order also adds a mandatory self-quarantine period of 14 days for anyone returning to Providence from New York state, in line with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s new statewide mandate.

More: Read Elorza’s full executive order

The order stems from growing concerns that people leaving the New York City metro area, which currently has more than 30,000 confirmed cases, might be helping to spread the disease.

The Providence City Council has scheduled a special meeting on Monday to vote on the new order.

“I don’t want to give anyone a false impression that things will be back to normal” by mid-April, Elorza said in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon.

He said the order would likely be extended again, potentially to the end of April and beyond.

“I know it’s been extraordinarily difficult for folks,” Elorza said. “We know that we’re nowhere near the end of this or the apex of this.”

Providence had 51 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday night, the highest number of any city or town in the state. Elorza said he expects the numbers to “exponentially increase” when testing becomes more easily available.

“Just being realistic at this time … it’s extraordinarily unlikely that life will be back to normal by the end of April,” Elorza said.

The partial shutdown of the economy will have an effect on Providence’s finances, with revenue from rooms, meal and beverage taxes in decline due to the business closures.

“We’re really concerned about cash flow and liquidity right now,” Elorza said. “We just don’t know exactly what our revenue is going to be in the future.”

He said he was waiting on projections from his finance team before making decisions on whether due dates for car taxes and property taxes will be delayed.

State officials, facing the same cash flow problems, took emergency action Thursday when the little-known Disaster Emergency Funding Board voted to borrow up to $300 million to shore up the state general fund in the short term.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

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