PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The stay-at-home order put in place by Gov. Gina Raimondo was officially lifted on Saturday, May 9.
But — that doesn’t mean Rhode Island will snap right back to normalcy.
Raimondo and other state officials have put together a phased approach to reopening the state’s economy with many restrictions remaining in place throughout. Wearing face coverings in public places will still be required, along with maintaining social distancing and staying vigilant about washing hands and cleaning common surfaces.
The state’s plan consists of three phases. In order to move between phases, the state must see a two-week downward trend in the number of cases or in stable or declining hospitalizations, among other indicators.
During the first, which began on May 9, we’ll resume business and social activity on a limited basis and significant restrictions will still be in place. Social gatherings will be limited to five people or less and activities must allow for six feet of social distancing.
Note: The initial plan was to allow gatherings of up to 10 people in Phase 1 but Raimondo reduced it to five last week.
Non-critical retail stores will be able to reopen during Phase 1 but must limit the number of shoppers inside, which will vary based on the size of the store. Raimondo suggested one person browsing for every 300 square feet of space, noting that having customers preorder and pick up their goods is still the safest option.
As for restaurants, takeout and delivery will still be the primary way of doing business. For Phase 1, only employees and customers picking up takeout orders are allowed inside; dine-in service will still be banned. However, outdoor dining will eventually be allowed by reservation only, as long as there’s adequate spacing between tables.
Businesses that have questions or need help reopening should call 521-HELP.
In addition, visitation will still be prohibited at hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities during Phase 1 to protect the elderly and other more vulnerable members of the population.
Certain parks will start to reopen but there will be reduced parking and social distancing will be enforced, meaning no large BBQs or pickup sports games. Visit the R.I. Department of Environmental Management website for a list of parks that will be able to reopen.
Phase 2 (goal: mid- to late May)
State beaches, on the other hand, will remain closed until Phase 2. Raimondo said she hopes to open them back up around Memorial Day weekend, but that’s not set in stone.
During Phase 2, more businesses will be able to reopen and restrictions will be further relaxed. The limit on social gatherings increases to 15 people and more child care options will be available. Offices can ease capacity restrictions but having employees work from home will still be encouraged.
Phase 3 (goal: TBD)
Building upon what was learned during the first two phases, Phase 3 will allow for most businesses to reopen with new guidelines. Social gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed, and the state will start looking to reopen school buildings. Travel and other restrictions may continue.