(WPRI) — If you plan to visit Central Falls or Newport soon, be prepared with a mask.
As of Monday, both Central Falls and Newport are requiring everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask inside city-owned public buildings.
This includes places such as City Hall, the Police Department, and other city public buildings. Newport also noted this includes the Maritime Center.
City employees in both communities will also be required to wear a face mask while engaging with the public or in common areas within city-owned buildings.
Additionally, Newport noted members of the public attending in-person meetings held at City Hall and other municipal buildings will also be required to wear masks.
As part of a pilot program, Central Falls began offering the vaccine to all of its eligible residents last December due to its high rate of COVID-19 cases. Eight months later, just under 55% of the city’s population is fully vaccinated.
In Newport, about 51% of residents are considered fully vaccinated.
Both cities have low vaccination rates, compared to the 72% of adults statewide considered fully vaccinated.
The latest health data shows Rhode Island is dealing with what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers a substantial transmission of the virus, with 85.2 total new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days reported as of Friday.
Additionally, cases in both Central Falls and Newport have ticked up slightly in the last two weeks.
The week of July 11, Central Falls reported less than five positive cases, while Newport reported 11 cases. For the week of July 18, Central Falls reported 11 cases, and Newport had 12.
Newport City Manager Joe Nicholson told 12 News last week the new mask policy is proactive.
“It’s a minor inconvenience,” Nicholson said. “It is an inconvenience to wear a mask, we all know that. So sure, we’re just asking people to mask up at city hall. It’s an active building, people are in and out of it all day.”
Both Nicholson and Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera are urging non-vaccinated residents to get the shot.
“We know what it’s like when COVID spreads like wildfire and causes complete destruction in our city. We can’t let that happen again. Right now, too many of our families remain unvaccinated and are extremely vulnerable to this very dangerous variant of the virus,” Rivera said.
Free COVID-19 tests are available for all Central Falls residents at Jenks Park Pediatrics (577 Broad Street) or at Blackstone Valley Community Health Care (9 Chestnut Street).
On Aug. 7, Central Falls is holding a food truck event pop-up vaccine clinic is taking place at Francis Corrigan Sports Complex on Higginson Avenue.