Rhode Island alerted residents on Monday, as the state entered a two-week shutdown in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus, that hospitals are at capacity.
"RIGOV COVID ALERT: Hospitals at capacity due to COVID. Help the frontline by staying home as much as possible for the next two weeks," the alert said. "Work remotely if you can, avoid social gatherings, get tested. If we all decrease our mobility, we will save lives. Learn more about RI on Pause at reopeningRI.com/pause."
A Rhode Island Department of Health spokesman explained to NBC News that all beds at traditional hospitals that are designated for COVID patients are occupied, though beds set aside for other uses remain empty. The state is opening a field hospital that can accommodate hundreds of people with non-intensive COVID cases.
Under the pause in place through Dec. 13, Gov. Gina Raimondo is ordering the complete closure of gyms, bars, bowling alleys, movie theaters and casinos. Social gatherings are banned. Restaurants will only be able to seat one household per table inside with a limit of eight people and stores will have to monitor capacity based on square footage.
Business owners have voiced concerns about the financial implications of these strict measures.
Buttonwoods Brewery Owner Morgan Snyder said to-go beers have been a lifeline during the pandemic, but the outdoor seating setup on weekends brings in most of the sales.
“I’m expecting a little bit of a slow down," Snyder said. "It feels like we're the hall monitor in high school and we're just telling people to follow the rules, do XYZ and no one's listening to us and we're the ones who are getting punished for it."
Snyder said the new restrictions mean fewer chairs and tables at Buttonwoods, resulting in fewer paying customers.
Rhode Island is using federal money to provide up to $50,000 in grants for businesses impacted by the pause. The application period is open for the next two weeks.
The temporary restrictions are "crucial" to prevent the state's hospital system from becoming overwhelmed and to avoid a more severe lockdown, according to Raimondo.
"This will not be easy, but I am pleading with you to take it seriously," Raimondo said in an email reminder about the new measures. "Choosing to gather with those outside your household will have ripple effects that will increase the strain on our hospitals and put lives at risk. Please, put health and safety first, and stay home for the next two weeks as much as possible."
- Bar areas in restaurants and bars
- Recreational venues like bowling alleys, theaters, and casinos
- Indoor sporting facilities, gyms and all group fitness classes
- Organized sports (other than college and professional sports)
- Most colleges and universities are finishing their semesters remotely
- All offices that can work remotely are strongly encouraged to do so
- Social gatherings are limited to people you live with
- Indoor dining will be reduced to 33% capacity with early closing times
- Restaurants will be required to only seat members from the same household together at one table indoors
- Houses of worship are limited to 25% capacity
- Retail must meet capacity limits of one person per 100 sq. ft. for most shops and one person per 150 sq. ft. for big box stores
- Superintendents may choose to shift high schools to limited in-person learning. Students with special learning needs and others who need in-person instruction must continue to receive it
- All Pre-K-8 classrooms
- Manufacturing and construction jobs, with regular surveillance testing for workers
- Personal services like hair and nail salons