Rhode Island

Gov. ‘Hopes' to Begin First Phase of Reopening as Coronavirus in RI Has Plateaued

The governor shared Monday the plan for phase one of the state's reopening, which will start on May 9 and will last for at least 14 days.

Gov. Gina Raimondo showed optimism Monday in providing her latest update on Rhode Island's coronavirus response.

She said based on the data, her "hope and intention" is to lift the stay-at-home order set to expire on May 8.

"I wouldn't do it if I wouldn't think we are ready," Ramondo said. "It will be a slow process of re-opening and May 9 will not look so different from what it looks now. But you will be able to leave your home."

The number of deaths linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, rose by 21 on Monday, bringing the statewide today to 341, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.

There were 175 new positive cases in the state, bringing that total to 9,652.

According to Raimondo, the numbers are a "good news story," as it shows that coronavirus cases have plateaued and hospitalizations have stabilized statewide. She said the numbers look especially promising coming off a weekend when a lot of Rhode Islanders left their houses to enjoy the warm weather outside.

Raimondo said Rhode Islanders, by and large, were "really compliant" during the weekend, with 95% of customers wearing masks and 100% respecting social distancing in over 300 businesses inspected by the Department of Business and Regulation.

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"It seems we have been dealing with this forever, but on the other hand it's only been two months," she said. "I have never been prouder to be a Rhode Islander."

Raimondo also shared the plan for phase one, which will start on May 9 and will last for at least 14 days. Her goal is to have retailers and those employed in the retail industry back to work, with non-critical retail stores able to reopen following safety restrictions.

She said the number of customers allowed inside retail stores will vary based on the space of the store, with no more than one customer per 300 square feet. Also, every staff member and customer should wear face coverings, stores should install barriers between the cashier and implement contactless payment or advanced payments to cut down personal contact

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"A week from today, assuming I will lift the stay-at-home order, if you are a retail store that can comply with these rules, go on and open your doors," she said.

While restaurants are not re-opening in phase one except for takeout and curbside pickup, Raimondo said those that have the capacity to offer outdoor seating might be allowed to do it into phase one.

She said tables should be set up to ensure social distancing, customers should be seated by reservation only and no frequently touched or reused objects like condiments, menus or silverware would be allowed.

While Raimondo said she is aware a lot of restaurants are not able to have an outdoor area and would skip phase one, being able to reopen only in phase two, she encouraged businesses to "be creative."

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"Maybe you don't have an outdoor dining area but you are able to convert part of your parking lot into outdoor dining that satisfies all of the requirements. We want to enable outdoor dining in phase one for as many restaurants as possible," she said.

In explaining phase one of the reopening, Raimondo said residents will be able to go to a shop, browse in retail stores and pop back to the office on occasion. While anyone who has deferred health care needs will be able to set up appointments, visits in nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living centers will not be allowed yet.

With Mother's Day around the corner, she said it's a very "sad and tough" decision.

"We know this virus is not kind to the elderly and people with underlying health conditions," Raimondo said. "We have to double down on our efforts to keep the most vulnerable among us safe."

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