Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Thursday she is extending Rhode Island's current two-week pause until Sunday, Dec. 20. amid a rise in coronavirus hospitalizations.
The two-week pause was set to expire Sunday.
Rhode Island reported 948 new positive coronavirus cases Thursday as well as an additional 14 deaths, according to the department of public health. There have now been 1,498 confirmed deaths and 69,247 cases in the state.
The weekly positivity rate stands at 8.9%, up from last week's rate of 6.9%.
"It continues to be a sobering picture. I'm not going to sugarcoat it," Raimondo said of Thursday's data.
Rhode Island has reported more coronavirus cases per capita in the past week than any other state, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rhode Island averaged about 110 daily cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker showed Sunday. Minnesota and South Dakota are the only other states in the country with 100 or more.
"That is not a distinction we want to have. That is not where we want to be," Raimondo said. "There is no excuse for it."
Despite mobility data showing that Rhode Islanders were moving around less and staying home more, Raimondo said another week of the pause was necessary: "I know it's the right decision to make."
The governor said she knows extending the pause is "brutal" for Rhode Island businesses and that's why she is also extending the deadline to apply for financial relief until Monday. Businesses that have applied for relief during the pause will receive a second check, Raimondo said.
Beginning Dec. 21, once the pause is over, indoor dining can increase capacity to 50%, venues of assembly can reopen at 25% capacity with a maximum of 125 people, gyms and sports facilities as well as indoor recreation can reopen with one person per 150 sq. feet.
In-person learning will still be allowed for pre-K through eighth grade and high schools will be limited.
What will remain prohibited after the pause is social gatherings involving people from different households, Raimondo said.
Dr. Philip Chan, consultant medical director with the state Department of Health's Division of Preparedness, Response, Infectious Disease and Emergency Medical Services, said at the governor's news conference that vaccine safety is "the number one priority."
Chan's appearance came as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration met Thursday on whether to endorse the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.
"People could be receiving the vaccine here in Rhode Island as early as next week," Chan said.
Once approved, the vaccination plan for Rhode Island will be done in four phases with the first starting this month.
Health care workers, first responders and staff and residents of long-term care facilities will be among the first to get the vaccine, Chan said.
In phase two, teachers, school staff, child care workers, people in prisons and jails and older adults will be able to get the vaccine.
Young adults, children and employees working in critical industries will be able to get the vaccine in phase three. It won't be until phase four when the vaccine will be available to the general public, Chan said.
Last week, Raimondo warned that vaccines would "trickle in" over the course of months and urged people to continue to follow social distancing guidelines to slow the spread of the virus.
She issued an urgent plea for any available health care workers to volunteer to work at one of the state's coronavirus field hospitals and other hospitals, saying COVID-19 patients could soon overwhelm the system.
Raimondo said the state had begun offering temporary licenses to retired health care workers, visiting medical workers and others in a bid to fully staff field hospitals in Cranston and Providence.