PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday banned Rhode Islanders from socializing outside their households, as she also prepared residents for a two-week “pause” with new closures and restrictions starting Nov. 30.
The two weeks of restrictions include closing gyms, colleges, offices, bars, recreational venues (including casinos) and cancelling organized sports, while keeping indoor dining and houses of worship open with limited capacity.
High schools are being asked to move to their “limited” in-person plans, with 25% capacity, also starting Nov. 30, while houses of worship will be limited to 25% capacity and restaurants will be limited to 33% capacity indoors. (Only one household will be allowed per table, because of the new social gathering rule.)
Elementary and middle schools will remain open as they are now, though districts have been closing individual schools when cases and staffing shortages necessitate it.
Offices are also asked to have all employees who can work remotely do so, though in-person workplaces such as a manufacturing, construction, personal services and child care centers will not be closed.
While the two weeks of restrictions go into effect on Nov. 30, the ban on social gatherings with those outside your household starts immediately, Raimondo said, including for Thanksgiving.
Census data shows roughly 126,000 Rhode Islanders live alone, meaning they are not allowed to see anyone at all in a social capacity until Dec. 13.
“I have tried to avoid any sort of a lockdown or a stay-at-home order,” Raimondo said before laying out the restrictions. “I’ve been begging and pleading with the people of Rhode Island to stop having parties.”
Raimondo acknowledged that she can’t police living rooms — joking about memes going around that show her popping up at Thanksgiving dinners — so she told Rhode Islanders to get tested before they go anywhere for Thanksgiving and upon return. She said travelers must quarantine upon return from Thanksgiving, but emphasized that they shouldn’t be traveling at all.
“I’m asking you to stay at home and hang out with the people that you live with,” Raimondo said.
She said rapid testing would also be available at T.F. Green Airport on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Raimondo said hospitals are at 97% of their designated COVID beds, and she anticipates needing to open the Cranston field hospital soon. She warned that hospitals may have to cancel other types of procedures including surgeries if the numbers don’t go down.
“I am trying to get us through the end of the year without overwhelming our health care system,” Raimondo said. “This is only going to work if we do it.”
On Thursday, data from the Health Department showed 921 new infections and a daily positivity rate of 5.8%, with 15,819 tests administered the previous day.
The number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital climbed to 298, with 22 currently in intensive care and 13 on ventilators. The number of people admitted to the hospital hit a single-day record of 53.
Health officials also reported four additional deaths among people infected with the virus.
Amid reports of long lines and a lack of time slots at coronavirus testing sites, the Health Department announced that a new location would be opening on Friday in the parking lot outside McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. Appointments can be made at portal.ri.gov and the site will be for both symptomatic and asymptomatic Rhode Islanders.
Additionally, asymptomatic testing sites are opening within days at South Road Elementary School in South Kingstown and Stop & Shop in Greenville, the Health Department said. Appointments are required to be booked on the state portal website.
“It’s a pain to wait five days,” Raimondo acknowledged when asked about the delay in getting an appointment. “It’s hard for me to believe you can’t get a test at all.”
She said testing capacity will double over the next three weeks.
Next week, the governor’s briefing will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday — the day before Thanksgiving — before it moves to Thursdays at 1 p.m. for the rest of the year, she said.
Watch Gov. Gina Raimondo’s full coronavirus briefing below: