Gov. Gina Raimondo is cautioning Rhode Islanders to celebrate the upcoming Fourth of July weekend responsibly to avoid an uptick in coronavirus cases.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Raimondo said she's worried that the state could see an increase of coronavirus cases if residents stop following the rules. She also pointed to the increase of cases in other states after the Memorial Day weekend.
"I'm worried because I see the experiences of other states," Raimondo said.
The governor said Rhode Islanders can still have fun over the holiday weekend, but they should still follow guidelines on social gatherings, reiterating that gatherings of over 250 outdoors are not allowed.
"Enjoy the weekend but follow the rules," she said while reiterating to wear a mask, avoid crowds, and don't go out if sick.
Because so many people have been heading to the beaches and many are not wearing masks at pavilions, state officials plan to hand out masks this weekend. The governor said she knows wearing a mask at a beach "is a drag" but it's better than the alternative of shutting down beaches.
"The beaches are closed in Florida. But they're open in Rhode Island and I want to keep them open," she said.
As of Wednesday, there were six new deaths as a result of the novel coronavirus in Rhode Island, bringing the state's total to 956. The department of health reported 27 new positive cases for a total of 16,853.
"We're continuing to trend in the right direction," Raimondo said.
The governor said last weekend, inspectors looked at a number of businesses and found that 90% were in compliance with the state's COVID-19 rules. Inspectors found only 18% of bars were not in compliance, Raimondo said.
"We can't have congregating around a bar. Period," the governor said adding that she will shut bars down if the compliance numbers don't decline.
The governor also announced a $5 million relief fund for the state's child care providers so they can make improvements while reopening.
More on the Coronavirus in Rhode Island
In addition, Raimondo said Rhode Island will continue wage bonuses for workers at nursing homes amid the coronavirus pandemic and provide facilities with more funds to obtain personal protection equipment and cleaning supplies.
Rhode Island entered Phase 3 of its reopening plan on Tuesday but restrictions will remain on social gatherings amid a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases, Raimondo said in a news conference Monday. She added that the state was able to further ease restrictions due to a continued decline in COVID-19 cases.
In Phase 3, the maximum number of people allowed at private, indoor social gatherings has been expanded to 25.
The number of people allowed at indoor weddings has been capped at 50. Up to 100 people are now allowed at outdoor weddings. Raimondo said people who organized weddings in July based on previous, higher projections for maximum guests can contact the Department of Business Regulations and exceptions might be made.
At public gatherings such as musical performances, the number of people allowed will be capped at 125 indoors and 250 outdoors. The governor earlier said there would be no cap on outdoor events, but said Monday she had to keep restrictions in place to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
During Phase 3, no-contact and low-contact youth and adult sports such as baseball, softball, tennis and golf will now be allowed to be played in stable groups of the same players and coaches with no limit on overall group size.
Games will be able to be played between teams within Rhode Island and outside the state as long as there is no stay at home order in the other state, Raimondo said.