Seven new restrictions to go into effect on Sunday
Regulations include mandatory mask-wearing and early closures of restaurants and bars
Seven new restrictions will go into effect this Sunday, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced during her COVID-19 briefing Thursday afternoon.
Starting Nov. 8, the following regulations will be in effect for two weeks:
- Stay-at-home advisory. A stay-at-home advisory will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weeknights, and from 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The intention, Gov. Raimondo said, is to have Rhode Islanders be in their own homes – not out at a restaurant, not over at a friend’s house – by that hour of night. Compliance will be voluntary yet strongly encouraged, she said; enforcement at this time will “not be heavy-handed.”
- Early closures. Restaurants, bars, gyms, recreational facilities – i.e., museums, the casino – and personal services will also need to end their services by 10 p.m. on weeknights and by 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Restaurants will need to begin “wrapping things up” by that time, Gov. Raimondo said; drive-thru and takeout services, however, may carry on past those hours.
- Venue capacity. For indoor venues such as movie theaters, performing arts centers and houses of worship, capacity will be reduced to 50 percent, with a maximum of 125 people; for outdoor venues, that limit is 66 percent, with a maximum of 150 people.
- Catered events. Capacity for catered events was reduced to 25 people indoors and 75 outdoors. However, for those who already had weddings or other special events planned in the coming weeks, Gov. Raimondo encouraged them to contact the Department of Business Regulation. “We are open to giving you an exemption,” she said.
- Big-box stores. At malls and big-box stores – retailers with more than 30,000 square feet of space – capacity will be reduced to one person per 150 sq. ft, same as it was during Phase II. “Over the last few weeks, we have started to see crowding at these businesses,” Gov. Raimondo said, predicting it will only continue to get worse ahead of the holiday shopping season.
- Business travel. All non-essential, work-related travel should either be postponed or canceled.
- Masks are mandatory. Masks will be required at all times –inside and outside – when around “people that you don’t live with,” Gov. Raimondo said. That includes while at the gym or over at a friend’s house for a bonfire, she added, but urged Rhode Islanders to “please use common sense.” “If you’re out running in the woods and there’s no one around you, maybe have your mask in your pocket,” she said.
Rhode Islanders can expect to get an alert on their phones around noon on Sunday, Gov. Raimondo noted. Many of the new restrictions are in line with what other states in their region are doing, she added, including Massachusetts and Connecticut. With nearly 600 new cases recorded yesterday and their data “pointing in all the wrong directions,” Gov. Raimondo said it was critical to reign in the spread of the virus. But in following this targeted approach, she said Rhode Island can hopefully avoid another sweeping shutdown like they saw back in March.
“We have to take our medicine; we could take our medicine now, or we could take our medicine later,” Gov. Raimondo said. “If we take the medicine now … the medicine’s not going to be that bad, and isn’t going to have to last that long.”
Grants for restaurants and bars
In light of the new restrictions, Gov. Raimondo said that grants will be made available to those restaurants and bars impacted. Grant awards will range from $2,000 to $10,000, “depending on how much business they typically do,” she said. She recognized that it might not totally make up for losses incurred by the early closure.
“I hope it will help. We will get it out to you quickly, and I just hope it’s something to help you out,” she said.
Full details will be made available on Monday at tax.ri.gov.
Gov. Raimondo warned that she is “going to be taking a very serious look” at their options for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday; it is likely she will be announcing restrictions pertaining to that next week.
“If you see a train coming down the tracks, we can’t just sit there and do nothing,” she said.
Following a one-week shutdown of indoor sports facilities, Gov. Raimondo also announced new measures pertaining to sports on Thursday.
Beginning this Monday, Nov. 9, and in effect through the end of the calendar year, a maximum of two spectators will be allowed at sporting events for athletes ages 18 and under. Face coverings will be required of everyone, players and spectators, at all times, whether it’s at practice or during a game.
“I know that’s a significant change, I know that is hard, I know that won’t be popular, but I think that is the only way we can allow for competitive sports to continue indoors while keeping people safe,” she said.
Sports were additionally ranked into low, moderate or high-risk categories, she added, each of which have their own set of restrictions. For low-risk sports like track and golf, competitive play and inter-state tournaments will still be permitted; moderate sports like basketball and ice hockey can continue with competitive play, but not inter-state tournaments. Neither competitive play nor inter-state tournaments will be permitted for high-risk sports such as football and wrestling, while out-of-state travel for tournaments is prohibited for every risk level.