18 new deaths in RI; stay-at-home order lifts Saturday


Key takeaways from today’s RI COVID-19 briefing:

  • Stay-at-home order lifts, Phase 1 starts Saturday
  • Non-critical retailers can open with restrictions
  • Restaurants can sell mixed drinks with takeout, delivery
  • 18 new deaths, including 2 at RI Veterans Home
  • Still no more than 5 at social gatherings in Phase 1

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo officially announced Thursday she will lift the stay-at-home order in Rhode Island on Saturday, allowing it to expire as scheduled after Friday.

The governor has been detailing plans for what she calls “Phase 1” of reopening for days, but had said she would make the final call on Thursday, one day before the stay-at-home order was scheduled to end.

“What’s it going to look like?” Raimondo said at her daily briefing Thursday. “Not very different than it looks right now.”

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Starting Saturday, non-critical retailers who were previously closed will now be able to reopen with limited capacity of one customer per 300 square feet of space. (Raimondo described the number as a guideline more than a strict rule.) New regulations discourage the use of dressing rooms or sampling of items, and encourage in-store pickup and brief browsing.

Raimondo said people who are able to work from home should continue to do so in Phase 1, and social gatherings should still be avoided.

“This is not the time for social gatherings,” Raimondo said. “My focus is to get people back to work.”

She said social gatherings would remain limited to five people or fewer, despite previous suggestions that she would consider expanding it to 10 as part of Phase 1.

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The governor said mayors in particular have been worried about enforcing limited social gathering in their municipalities, which played a part in her decision to continue keeping a lower limit than in Massachusetts. The five-person limit will be extended to May 22, Raimondo said.

“We have to play it safe,” she said.

Raimondo said elective procedures at some local hospitals are starting to resume this week and next, and she urged people who have been putting off routine medical care to start making appointments again.

“I hope this unlocks a lot of employment,” Raimondo said, referring to furloughs of medical staffers during the past couple months.

Restaurants will remain closed for dine-in services, but can continue to do takeout and delivery in Phase 1. Restaurants had already been allowed to sell beer and wine with takeout orders, and Raimondo said Thursday that sealed mixed drinks could now be added to those orders, too.

Outdoor dining is possible later in Phase 1, Raimondo said, but not right away when the reopening begins on Saturday.

Entertainment venues such as movie theaters and close-contact businesses such as salons or fitness centers will remain closed, Raimondo said. She said the state is aiming to reopen gyms during Phase 2.

There were 18 new deaths of people with coronavirus in Rhode Island reported Thursday and 325 new cases, according to data released by the R.I. Department of Health.

There are 318 people in the hospital with COVID-19, down slightly from Wednesday. Of those, 82 are in intensive care and 56 are on ventilators.

(story continues below chart.)

Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said 14 of the 18 newly reported deaths were people who lived in long-term care facilities, including the Rhode Island Veterans Home, where two residents in their 70s died.

As of Sunday, 17 residents of the home and two dozen staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.

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Raimondo also said that in Phase 1, places of worship can hold services with five people or fewer. She suggested that churches, synagogues or mosques live-stream the services so people can watch, a practice many have already begun.

If the service is a funeral, however, the limit will expand to 10 people in attendance with proper social distancing, Raimondo said. The 10-person limit does not include the clergy member or other individual leading the service, she said.

Raimondo also signed orders Thursday extending several of her emergency orders to June 5, including quarantine requirements for travelers. She said traveling between states to shop for necessities or seek medical treatment would not require a subsequent quarantine, but all other travel to Rhode Island still requires a person to quarantine for 14 days.

The orders mandating isolation for those who test positive, and quarantine for their contacts, has also been extended to June 5.

The governor’s order mandating that masks be worn in public places also goes into effect Friday. The order makes exception for people who can consistently stay six feet away from others — on a walk alone, for example — as well as children under the age of two and those who have health conditions that prevent the wearing of a mask.

“I am trusting that people are going to do the right thing and use good judgment,” Raimondo said. “We’re not going to be able to enforce every bit of everyone’s human behavior in the weeks and months to come.”

In a follow-up phone call with reporters, the governor indicated she expects to scale back her current pace of doing a coronavirus briefing every day to five days a week starting next week.

Live Streaming Monday: Coronavirus Coverage

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

Watch all daily coronavirus updates here on WPRI.com or on the WPRI 12 mobile app » Go here to watch CBS News Coverage»

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