Key takeaways from Friday’s briefing:
- Social gathering limit reduced to 10 people
- No spectators at sporting events for next two weeks
- Indoor athletic facilities closed for one week
- Visitation scaled back at hospitals/nursing homes
- 300-bed field hospital on standby in Cranston
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In response to the recent increase in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo put new restrictions in place on Friday.
To start, Raimondo reduced the allowable size of social gatherings from 15 to 10, effective immediately.
“If you could keep it to five, that would be better,” she said. “Some people have a family of six people, so that’s why I opted for 10 and not five. But if you could keep it to five, keep it to five, but the law is now 10.”
“Shrink your social network.”
We’re at a critical juncture right now, Raimondo said, not just because of the case spike, but also because the holidays are coming up. To stem the spread of the virus, she urged Rhode Islanders to wear masks when not at home and stick to a small, closed social circle.
“It does not mean you see nine people on Monday and another nine people Tuesday and another nine people Wednesday,” Raimondo explained.
She suggested writing down the 10–15 people you “absolutely have to be near” such as family members, coworkers and doctors, and committing to seeing only those people for the next two weeks.
“The fact of the matter is, we are just seeing too many parties,” Raimondo said. “Maybe you’re hearing me and saying, ‘no, governor, it’s not happening.’ I’m here to tell you it’s happening.”
Raimondo and Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott reiterated that transmission is happening in casual social settings where people are letting their guard down and not wearing masks.
The governor asked that people eliminate all nonessential activities, especially this coming weekend.
“Going out to dinner with 10 of your friends, going out to a party, having people over for Halloween – not essential. And it’s going to cost lives and cost jobs and contribute to suffering of people Rhode Islanders love,” she said.
While trick-or-treating will be allowed on Saturday, Raimondo said to keep it short, keep it distanced, and to wrap it up before dark.
As for adults, she recommended simply staying at home, saying this is not a time to host or attend a party or congregate at a bar.
“I know, still, of young people planning to get together in small groups,” she said. “I’m asking you not to do it.”
R.I. State Police presence will be tripled over Halloween weekend, according to Raimondo, and they’ll be tasked with seeking out violations to the social gathering limit such as large parties. Hosts may be fined $500 per person over the limit of 10 attendees.
“I wish it could be different,” Raimondo added. “I know there’s fatigue, I know there’s anger, I know there’s frustration, I know everything I said right now is probably not that popular. I can’t change the virus.”
“We have a chance to turn this around.”
On Friday, the R.I. Department of Health announced another six COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total to 1,201. Two of those people were in their 50s, according to Alexander-Scott, while one was in their 60s, two were in their 70s and one was in their 90s.
Health officials reported 482 new positive cases and a daily positivity rate of 3.3%, with more than 14,500 tests administered the previous day.
In addition to the 482 new infections, the Health Department also added 80 newly disclosed cases to the totals for previous days over the past two weeks.
“It’s not where we want to be and sadly, we know the next chapter of this book and the next scene of this movie if we don’t make changes today,” Raimondo said.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations increased to 152 (from 139 on Thursday) with 15 patients currently in intensive care units and nine on ventilators.
Raimondo announced a 300-bed field hospital in Cranston is ready to go, saying that we’re “on a path to open it up in a few weeks” unless Rhode Islanders follow her guidelines.
“If you want to keep that field hospital empty, as I do, if you want to save lives, if you want to help people keep their jobs, then that’s what we all need to do,” she said.
“We are 1 million people strong, and it’s our moment to pull together and rise above and turn the dial down on this virus,” she continued.
Raimondo announced the state will be making “very targeted interventions” with hopes of addressing the COVID-19 spike while limiting the effects on commerce. She said the focus will be cracking down on “unstructured social settings.”
For the next two weeks, spectators will not be allowed at sporting events in the state, with the exception of the parents of small children.
“The high school sports season only has a couple of weeks left before they start the playoffs,” Raimondo noted. “I really want to allow these kids to finish their season, so one way to do that is for us to not go be spectators.”
Saying that one-third of the youth sports cases in the state have been associated with hockey, Raimondo also said that all indoor athletic facilities, such as ice rinks, will be closed for one week, starting on Monday. During that week, state officials will be working with the owners of those facilities on new regulations in hopes of allowing them to safely reopen the following week.
Additionally, hospitals and nursing homes must scale back visitation for the next two weeks, according to Raimondo. It’s not being shut down completely, she said, but changes need to be made in order to protect the more vulnerable members of our population. Raimondo said she expects to announce new rules and put them into effect next week.
The governor asked faith leaders to offer and strongly encourage virtual services, and also urged businesses to allow their employees to work from home, if possible. To help businesses accomplish that, the state has made $5 million available through the R.I. Commerce Corp., which can be used on items such as laptops, software subscriptions or internet access.
Earlier this week, she said the state needs more contact tracers and on Friday she renewed the call for people to apply online.
For the next two weeks, Raimondo plans to hold weekly briefings at 1 p.m. on Thursdays.