PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday said she would order workplace break rooms to close for 90 days amid an uptick in coronavirus cases.
Raimondo said the virus was being spread mainly through intimate, unmasked gatherings, many of which she acknowledged she cannot police because they are inside private homes.
But she said contract tracing has also indicated that small break rooms without windows have also contributed to cases spreading, as workers eat lunch without masks on in close proximity.
Raimondo urged employers to continue to allow employees to work from home if possible, and to encourage outdoor breaks for those who are at a workplace.
She said more specific guidance would be posted on ReopeningRI.com later Thursday. She suggested that employers could still allow workers to enter the break room with masks on to retrieve items from the refrigerator, but should not stay there to eat meals.
Raimondo said it was time to “course correct” in order to avoid a significant new waves of infections and hospitalizations.
“We just have to try a little harder, get a little more focused because we’re in a bad spot right now,” Raimondo said. “This is really hard,” she acknowledged.
She repeatedly told Rhode Islanders to cancel Halloween parties and consider not traveling far for Thanksgiving this year. And while she said she could not stop small social gatherings, she noted that the gathering limit is 15 people, and the state would enforce the rules on any gatherings larger than that number.
She also urged asymptomatic people to go to portal.ri.gov to sign up for testing. In particular, those with close contact jobs, adults between age 18 to 39, travelers and those who have attended a large gathering or protest are urged to get tested.
On Thursday, the R.I. Department of Health reported 228 new positive cases. With more than 12,300 tests conducted the previous day, the daily positivity rate came out to 1.9%, which is down from 2.7% on Wednesday.
In addition to the 228 new cases reported Thursday, the Health Department also newly disclosed 47 additional cases were added to previous days over the last two weeks.
In addition, health officials said two more people in Rhode Island have died after contracting the virus, bringing the state’s death toll to 1,149.
The number of people hospitalized on Thursday dropped to 129, according to health officials. There are currently twelve people in the intensive care unit with five on ventilators.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott made strong remarks about mask-wearing, urging people to wear face coverings not only in public spaces, but also with friends and family members outside their household.
“Wear your mask whenever you are around other people you don’t live with,” Alexander-Scott said. “Period.”
She said the “number one message” ahead of any gatherings such as Thanksgiving dinner is to wear a mask. Hand-washing, distancing and testing are also recommended.
New mask regulations were expected to be posted online Thursday.