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Gov. Raimondo previews state’s 'Phase 2’ reopening plans

Urges residents, businesses to adhere to Phase 1 guidelines for the next week

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PROVIDENCE — Explaining “a lot of information will be coming out in next couple of weeks as we start reopening our economy,” Gov. Gina Raimondo spent the better part of her Friday, May 22, coronavirus press briefing describing elements of the state’s upcoming COVID-19 Phase 2 response plan, saying Rhode Island’s ability to move forward was “very exciting that we’re in a place to do this.”

Before expounding on plans, the governor noted there were 170 new positive confirmed coronavirus cases day-over-day and there were 23 recent fatalities.

“It’s good news we’re moving in the right direction,” Gov. Raimondo said, adding, “What’s not good news though was the latest death count.”

Phase 2 preview
The governor said while “Phase 1 was about putting our toe in the water to see if we’re ready and we are,” as Rhode Island moves into Phase 2 as planned to start June all must remain vigilant and adhere to the rules associated with the next step.

Gov. Raimondo said she was “taking a risk” by discussing elements of Phase 2 beforehand, but wanted to provide residents with a brief preview of what to expect. In the meantime, though, all current executive orders, like gatherings still being restricted to five or fewer, remained for the rest of May.

“Let’s stay hunkered down for another week,” she added.

As of June 1, however, several aspects of everyday life will be altered, she hopes, positively.

“It’s going to be a big phase. There are a lot changes coming. It’s a big reopening,” Gov. Raimondo said.

She said her “big focus is getting people back to work.” With that in mind, Gov. Raimondo said pretty much every sector of the community and economy will be reopening in some form next month.

All parks and beaches will reopen with restrictions. The same is set for child care facilities.

Houses of worship can reopen with up to 25 percent capacity the weekend of May 30.

Phase 2 social gathering numbers will be upped to 15.

“It’s time to be with friends and family and love ones and colleagues safely in groups of 15 or less,” Gov. Raimondo said.

Referring to the state's tourism industry, as of June 1, the 14-day quarantine will only be in place for those coming to or returning to Rhode Island from places that still have a stay-at-home order. But the governor noted at this point very few places have that. International travel is still not allowed.

Observing the service industry “has been getting crushed,” as of June 1, restaurants will not only be allowed to offer outdoor dining, but also indoor dining up to 50 percent of capacity.

Gov. Raimondo said “going out to eat will feel different.” All will be required to wear masks, distance, not have lines to get into the establishment or for bathrooms. There can be no shared menus, the governor continued, but at 50 percent capacity officials believe restaurants can reopen and attempt to “break even.”

Gov. Raimondo stressed all of guidelines in place are meant to help and not be overly burdensome. Also, as soon as possible, they will be rescinded, but that is likely quite a ways off.

She continued, for patrons, if they can go to restaurants, “go ahead and get back out there.” For proprietors, operating at 50 percent is “hopefully a good beginning.”

Offices, in Phase 2, will allowed to have a third of their employees return to their buildings.

The governor asked if people can still work from home, still do so. On the flip side, she said “it’s also time to have some confidence” to get back to the office, work as a team in a collaborative setting if necessary.

In the personal services industry — hairdressers, barbers, tattoo artists, nail salons, etc. — they can reopen on June 1 with capacity restrictions, with new cleaning guidelines and mask requirements.

Gyms and fitness centers, likewise, can reopen though with limited numbers, while social distancing, with smaller class sizes and by offering outdoor activities where and when they can.

'Thanks'
Gov. Raimondo, noting the pandemic has been upon the state for almost three months, offered up thanks to several segments of society for the efforts during the crisis.

“We’re past the worst of it,” the governor said. “We’ve done an excellent job of keeping ourselves safe as a state.”

She expressed her gratitude to all of the workers, business owners and every day Rhode Islanders who are following the rules.

“I could easily stand here for an hour giving all the thank yous,” Gov. Raimondo said. “It’s important for all of us to remember the sacrifices made…Not every state is doing as well as we are and that is because of residents in Rhode Island.”

She likewise commended teachers, students and parents for their performance under distance learning protocols.

Gov. Raimondo asked of the latter specifically, “Hang in there as we make that final push towards an excellent end of school.”

Outreach
The governor said the state has engaged with just about every segment of society and the economy as it moves into Phase 2 of reopening.

The governor continued, “I know there’s a lot of people who are nervous about this.” They’re nervous because communities are still struggling, living in high-density areas where spread continues and that some remain reluctant to get tested.

If community or business leaders choose not to reopen according to Phase 2 guidelines, Gov. Raimondo added, “That’s fine. I think it’s safe for you to as long as follow and enforce the rules, but you know what’s best for the people lead…If you believe you should take it slower, then do that.”

Memorial Day Parade
Asked by the media for her reaction to the planned vehicle-only Memorial Day motorcade/parade in East Providence sponsored by the American Legion Post 10 in collaboration with the city, Gov. Raimondo said she approved of the event and said it was an example of a “creative” way of holding such outings while adhering to distancing and crowd size limitations.

“Crush COVID” app
The governor announced 30,000 users have signed up for the “Crush COVID” tracking app since it was introduced earlier in the week. She set a goal of 45,000 by Tuesday, May 26.

She asked residents to “give it a try…It could mean life or death for some people.”

Briefings schedule
The governor will pause her daily briefings through the holiday weekend, returning on Tuesday, May 26, at 1 p.m.

Gov. Raimondo will, however, lead a Memorial Day remembrance at the Rhode Island Veterans Cematery in Exeter on Monday. The ceremony will be live-streamed.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.