PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Most indoor establishments in Rhode Island will now require masks or proof of vaccination as the state tries to curb a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Last week, Gov. Dan McKee laid out new policies on masking, vaccination and hospital staffing that he says will help relieve pressure on the state’s health care system while preventing economic disruptions to small businesses.
“We want to let people know that business is going to continue and that we encourage people to frequent our local businesses but be safe about it,” McKee said.
The new requirements around masking and vaccinations for indoor establishments are broken down into three areas based on size and category, and apply to anyone ages 2 and up:
- Larger indoor venues (with a capacity of 250 or more), masks will be required for all attendees regardless of vaccination status.
- Smaller indoor venues (with a capacity of under 250) — including restaurants, retailers and venues of assembly — each individual establishment can require either mandatory masks for all; mandatory proof of vaccination for all; or masks only for individuals who fail to show proof of vaccination.
- Offices, manufacturers and other businesses with indoor operations, the rule will be similar to the one for smaller indoor venues. Individual establishments can require proof of vaccination from all patrons and employees; implement a universal mask mandate; or require masks only for individuals who fail to show proof of vaccination.
The state still considers a person “fully vaccinated” if they have received either two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The new requirements will be “reevaluated” within 30 days, McKee said.
McKee also stressed the importance of Rhode Islanders getting booster shots, especially with the growing concern about the recently identified omicron variant.
“The booster is going to be critical,” McKee said, predicting the CDC will soon shift the official definition of “fully vaccinated” to include booster shots.
The state is also working to expand testing capacity, including access to rapid tests, as McKee acknowledged the frustration about the slow turnaround for test results in recent weeks.
Efforts are being made to find additional lab capacity, and the state will also distribute 100,000 at-home rapid tests over the next two weeks, McKee has also requested an additional 1 million at-home rapid tests from FEMA for distribution to the cities and towns.
For those who need to get tested before traveling somewhere for the holidays, some state-run test sites will be open until 12 p.m. on Friday, Christmas Eve, for rapid testing by appointment only.
All state-run test sites will be closed on Saturday, Christmas Day.