PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Though Rhode Island is nearly fully reopened, Gov. Dan McKee signed an executive order Thursday that extends the state of emergency through July 9.
Speaking to reporters at an event on Friday, 12 News asked why McKee did so if he wanted to further reopen the economy.
The governor said there were a few reasons behind the decision, including keeping certain opportunities extended to businesses in place, like allowing takeout beer, wine and cocktails.
“You take away the emergency situation, you take away that ability for those restaurants to actively operate,” McKee explained.
McKee said he consulted with state agencies like the R.I. Department of Labor and Training and the R.I. Department of Health before he decided to extend the order.
“If we get rid of the emergency order, then all of a sudden we are not allowed the same flexibility that we have right now,” he added.
McKee also said that keeping the emergency order in place allows the public and members of local and state boards and commissions to continue to participate in meetings remotely.
“That’s being debated right now, but if you take that away at a short notice, how do you plan for that?” McKee asked.
By comparison, New Hampshire’s state of emergency is ending Friday, while Massachusetts’ will be lifted on June 15, Vermont’s is set to expire on June 15 (though Gov. Phil Scott said he would lift it once 80% of the eligible population is vaccinated), Maine’s is ending on June 30, and Connecticut’s was extended until July 20.
Spokesmen for House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio told 12 News that neither legislative leader was briefed on the extension of the executive order.
McKee said with the economy open and vaccination rates increasing, he plans to sunset the state of emergency order soon but will “take it one step at a time.”
As of Friday, more than 590,000 Rhode Islanders were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the latest data from the R.I. Department of Health. More than 670,000 people in total are at least partially vaccinated, having gotten their first shot.
The daily positivity remained low on Friday (0.3%) with more than 6,500 tests administered the previous day and 21 new coronavirus infections detected.
The state’s death toll remained unchanged for the second straight day, with no new fatalities reported.
COVID-19 hospitalizations ticked up to 33, with four patients in the intensive care unit and five on ventilators.