RI to crack down on crowded bars, Raimondo warns; visitation resumes at nursing homes, hospitals

Coronavirus

Key takeaways from Wednesday’s briefing:

  • 2 more deaths, 971 total
  • Daily positivity rate of 1.2%
  • State to start enforcing rules at restaurants, bars
  • Visitors allowed back at nursing homes, hospitals
  • Tourists from certain states, outside U.S. must self-quarantine

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s no secret that Rhode Island has a lot of great options for restaurants, bars and beaches, and Gov. Gina Raimondo made it clear Wednesday she wants to keep it that way as the summer tourism season continues.

But in order to do so, she said, everyone must abide by the rules and regulations her administration has put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

During her latest briefing, Raimondo issued a stern warning to bars specifically, noting how many states have had to shut theirs back down amid spikes in new cases and hospitalizations.

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“We don’t want to shut you down. I want you all open and making money,” she said. “The majority of you are being creative and following the rules, and if you’re trying, we’re going to work with you.”

“There are those of you out there – and you know who you are – you’re not even trying,” Raimondo continued. “We’re going to crack down on you, because it’s not fair to the rest of the restaurants.”

Raimondo announced the state is stepping up enforcement at restaurants and bars to make sure masks are being worn, social distancing is being maintained, and proper hygiene is being followed.

She also said that while bars can serve food and drinks, patrons should not be congregating in the bar area.

“No bar in the state of Rhode Island should be operating as a bar,” she said. “You’re not allowed to go up, order a drink and hang out at the bar.”

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If inspectors see an “egregious disregard for the rules,” the establishment will be issued a compliance order and potentially a fine on the spot, according to Raimondo. For a second offense, the restaurant or bar will be issued a fine and could be shut down until it can demonstrate the appropriate changes have been made.

For less serious violations like a lack of signage, Raimondo said a warning will be issued for the first offense, followed by a compliance order or fine the second time around.

The governor said the updated rules and regulations will be posted to dbr.ri.gov, where complaints can also be filed.

As for beaches, Raimondo said she had concerns going into the Fourth of July weekend but for the most part, she felt good about what she saw. She said the beaches were busy but the parking lots never reached capacity, and the R.I. Department of Environmental Management passed out thousands of face masks which resulted in much better compliance than the previous weekend.

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Late Wednesday morning, the R.I. Department of Health (RIDOH) announced two more Rhode Islanders died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the total to 971.

During the briefing, Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said both of the people who died were in their 80s.

“Every time I read that we have another number of deaths, it’s a reminder to me that we’re not out of the woods,” Raimondo said. “That ought to be a reminder — a stark and harsh reminder to every one of us — that people die if we don’t follow the rules.”

RIDOH also reported 41 new positive cases and 3,383 tests performed for a daily positivity rate of 1.2%.

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COVID-19 Tracking: Maps, Charts & Interactive Data »

As of Wednesday, 56 COVID-19 patients are in the hospital, according to RIDOH, of which five are in the ICU and on ventilators.

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Starting on Wednesday, hospitals and nursing homes welcomed back visitors for the first time since March.

For nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, a set of guidelines must be followed which include scheduling visits in advance and pre-screening visitors for COVID-19 symptoms.

More: Visitation guidelines for nursing homes, assisted-living facilities (RI.gov) »

Hospitals have to follow similar health and safety requirements to accept visitors but should only have limited visitation hours which vary by hospital, Alexander-Scott said.

The majority of nursing homes have met the requirements to resume visitation, though some have decided to hold off for a short time, according to Alexander-Scott.

“It’s either because they have had recent cases, which is something we are working closely with facilities to respond to,” she explained, “or because they need a little more time to implement their safe visitation plans effectively.”

She also announced the restriction on barbers and hairdressers visiting nursing homes has been lifted.

“There’s a clear understanding that the emotional well-being of the residents — both in appearance and in how they’re feeling — and engaging with others is a key part to this overall recovery,” Alexander-Scott added. “We recognize that this has been an enormously challenging time for nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, for the residents, the staff who love them, and the administrators, as well.”

Raimondo also issued a reminder Wednesday that anyone coming to Rhode Island from outside of the U.S. or one of the 28 states with a 5% or greater rate of positive tests must quarantine for 14 days unless they’ve tested negative in their home state within 72 hours of arrival or get tested in Rhode Island. The state has 10 testing sites specifically for tourists, Raimondo said, adding that out-of-staters must pay for the test out of pocket and self-quarantine until the results are received.

More Info: How and where to get tested in RI, Mass. »

Those requirements only apply to people vacationing in Rhode Island, the governor noted. Essential workers are exempt, along with people crossing the border to receive medical treatment, pick up groceries or medication, or attend a service such as a funeral.

Raimondo’s next scheduled briefing is at 1 p.m. Friday. She said she expects to make an announcement on how the state will allocate its federal COVID-19 relief funding.

Starting next week, Raimondo plans to hold one briefing per week at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Go here to sign up for daily email updates from the state.

Coronavirus: Coverage and Resources

COVID-19 Tracking: Maps, Charts, Interactive Data | Projection Models | Find a Testing Site Near You | School Updates | Latest Headlines

RI Coronavirus Hotline: (401) 222-8022 | Work-Related Questions: (401) 462-2020 | Mental Health Assistance: (401) 414-5465

Coronavirus: Latest Headlines

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