Governor: Two week 'pause' begins Nov. 30 — social gatherings stop immediately
Social gatherings limited to a single household, effective immediately
With cases continuing to surge and hospitals now reaching 97 percent capacity of their available COVID-19 beds, Gov. Gina Raimondo said she had no choice but to place Rhode Island on a two-week “pause” starting Monday, Nov. 30.
In the meantime, Gov. Raimondo said the current regulations will remain in effect, with one major adjustment, effective immediately: social gatherings will be limited to a single household. Big-box stores are also being asked to develop plans on how to manage the increase in shopping over next holiday weekend, she added.
Then on Nov. 30, the “pause” will go into effect, lasting through Sunday, Dec. 13. Restrictions will have an impact on:
- School. While children in grades pre-K through eight will resume in-person learning after Thanksgiving, Gov. Raimondo said that superintendents will have the flexibility to shift to their limited in-person plans starting Nov. 30 for the high school level. In-person instruction will end at the collegiate level, she added, with students getting tested before they leave campus.
- Social gatherings. Indoor social gatherings will remain limited to a single household; if you have to see other people, Gov. Raimondo said it must take place outdoors.
- Restaurants and bars. The capacity for indoor dining will be reduced to 33 percent, Gov. Raimondo said, and restaurants will be required to only seat members from a single household together at a table. The weeknight 10 p.m. curfew (10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday) will remain in effect, and bar areas will be closed.
- Retail. The existing capacity restrictions will remain in effect, Gov. Raimondo said, with one person per 100 sq. ft. allowed inside a retail establishment or per 150 sq. ft. in a big box store.
- Recreational venues. Recreational venues such as bowling alleys, theaters and casinos will be fully closed, Gov. Raimondo said.
- Sports. All indoor sporting facilities and gyms will close during the pause, Gov. Raimondo said, and all group fitness classes and organized sports – including high school – will also stop. Professional and collegiate sports have their own set of rules and are excluded, she noted.
- Houses of worship. All houses of worship will be limited to 25 percent capacity with a max of 125 people, Gov. Raimondo said, though she encouraged celebrating virtually whenever possible.
- Offices. All employees who can work from home should do so during the pause, Gov. Raimondo said, encouraging employers to call 521-HELP if they need assistance in doing so.
These were all measures she did not want to take, Gov. Raimondo said, but were now necessary in order to avoid overwhelming their hospital system. But If Rhode Islanders take this guidance to heart, the “pause” should only last two weeks. If they don’t, then she will likely be back in a few weeks with a full lockdown order.
“This ('pause') is key,” Gov. Raimondo said. “This is the crux of our winter strategy working.”
With so much community spread now making it impossible to pinpoint each infection’s origin, Gov. Raimondo said that she had turned to the trending data to help inform what exactly the “pause” would look like – and those “clear patterns” showed that bars and restaurants help drive mobility, and that people had too many social contacts outside of their own households.
“The more mobility people have and the more contact they have socially with people they don’t live with, that’s causing a great deal of our problems,” Gov. Raimondo said.
With Thanksgiving just a week away, Gov. Raimondo once again implored Rhode Islanders to celebrate the holiday at home with the people they live with.
“I’d like you to keep it local, keep it to your household, not travel,” she said.
For those who “insist” on breaking the rules and traveling for Thanksgiving, Gov. Raimondo asked that they get tested before leaving and again afterwards, and to follow the guidelines wherever they go. Rapid testing will also be available at TF Green Airport on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday after the holiday, she said, and the National Guard will be present to remind travelers to get tested and quarantine for 14 days.
Gov. Raimondo started off her briefing with some positive news, sharing that Rhode Island was one of four states selected by Pfizer to pilot its vaccination distribution. Though that won’t mean the state will get the vaccine first, Gov. Raimondo said it does ensure that the logistics – like how to store it and how to distribute it – will be sorted out by the time the vaccine is ready.
“That will ensure that we, here in Rhode Island, are ready to hit the ground running the minute that vaccine is approved and available,” she said.
With Pfizer seeking out Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in the upcoming days for their vaccine – which, in clinical trials, has shown 95 percent effectiveness – Gov. Raimondo said she was “hopeful” that some Rhode Islanders would have access to that vaccine by the end of this year.
"There is very definitely light at the end of the tunnel," Gov. Raimondo said.