RI death toll exceeds 500, hospitalizations drop again; 2 beaches to reopen on Memorial Day

Coronavirus

Key takeaways from Monday’s briefing:

  • Death toll exceeds 500
  • Two beaches reopen on Memorial Day with limited parking
  • In-person religious services to start May 30
  • 121 new cases; daily positive rate of 4%

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Another seven people with COVID-19 have died in Rhode Island, bringing the death toll to 506, according to new data released by the R.I. Department of Health on Monday.

Another 121 positive tests were also reported out of more than 2,800 total test results returned in the past day. There have now been 12,795 positive cases of COVID-19 in Rhode Island since the start of the crisis.

The number of people in the hospital with the virus dropped again Monday to 236 from 260 on Sunday.

Gov. Gina Raimondo announced at her daily briefing Monday that two state beaches — East Matunuck and Scarborough — will reopen on Memorial Day with “very reduced parking.”

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Specific guidelines are expected in the coming days from the R.I. Department of Environmental Management, but Raimondo said there will be no bathroom or shower facilities, concession stands or lifeguards (though portable toilets will be available, according to a spokesperson).

The reduced-capacity parking will be free, she added.

“This is really a very limited reopening of these two beaches so that if you and your family typically have a tradition of going to the beach on Memorial Day, you can still do that,” Raimondo said. “We want people to go outside, get some fresh air … but all the rules will apply.”

She said she expects to open the rest of the state beaches during Phase 2, still with limited parking. A spokesperson said the state is looking for seasonal employees for the beaches and parks, and people can apply here.

Raimondo also said she is aiming to allow in-person religious services to resume the weekend of May 30, again with specific guidelines to be released in the coming days.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence had posted a series of tweets in the past several days expressing frustrations about churches remaining closed.

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Outdoor dining is allowed to begin Monday in Rhode Island, with strict restrictions, as part of the Phase 1 reopening plan.

Raimondo said there was “excellent compliance” with mask-wearing and social distancing in retail stores over the weekend, the second weekend stores were allowed to be open.

She also remarked on reports of some large gatherings, including Providence College students celebrating graduation on Eaton Street on Saturday.

“The young people, they need to do better,” Raimondo said. “This isn’t a joke.”

She said the state police dispersed several parties over the weekend, but fines were not issued.

“As summer comes, if we start to see big social gatherings, we are going to have to shut them down,” Raimondo added.

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Phase 2 is expected to start around early June, where further businesses are expected to be allowed to reopen including hair salons.

Raimondo’s plans differ from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s in terms of which industries can open in each phase; Baker’s plans revealed Monday include hair salon openings in Phase 1, but no restaurants or indoor retail browsing until Phase 2.

What can reopen in Massachusetts? Baker offers new guidance as state enters Phase 1

Massachusetts also has allowed gatherings of 10 or fewer, while Rhode Island is still limited to no more than five people.

“I kept the social gathering limit low to prioritize getting folks back to work,” Raimondo said. She also acknowledged that some people might cross the border to get services — such as haircuts — that are allowed to open in Massachusetts sooner than Rhode Island.

“I hope they don’t,” she said. “I hope they wait another week.”

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Raimondo also reminded Rhode Islanders of Tuesday’s deadline to submit applications to get a mail-in ballot for the presidential primary, which is being held on June 2. Applications were sent out to registered voters in the past month.

Voters who did not mail their applications back will need to drop them off in person at their local board of canvassers by Tuesday to meet the deadline. There will still be limited in-person voting on primary day, with fewer polling places open than usual.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the R.I. Department of Health changing the number of new cases to 121 on Monday.

Live Streaming Monday: Coronavirus Coverage

1 p.m. RI Gov. Gina Raimondo Briefing | 3:30 p.m. Gov. Charlie Baker briefing

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