Rhode Island Begins Reopening, But Gatherings Remain Limited to 5 People

The rule applies for Mother's Day on Sunday, Gov. Gina Raimondo noted: "This year we’ll find different ways to show mom we love her"

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It may not be “business as usual,” but some businesses in Rhode Island reopened Saturday as the state’s stay-at-home order was lifted.

Hospitals may begin scheduling elective and non-critical procedures and some state parks reopened, under Gov. Gina Raimondo’s guidelines. But social distancing rules that limit gatherings to five people were still in effect.

Raimondo reiterated on Saturday that these should not be five different people each day, and the rule still applies for Mother's Day on Sunday.

“This year we’ll find different ways to show mom we love her," Raimondo said at her daily news briefing.

An executive order has taken effect in the state that mandates face coverings in public, both inside and outdoors, when people can’t socially distance.

"Keep your social network limited," the governor said. "We’re in a really good place, we’re in a stable place."

Raimondo announced there were 210 new positive cases and 19 new deaths from COVID-19 Saturday, bringing the state's total to 10,989 positive cases and 418 total fatalities.

While numbers have dipped from the peak, Raimondo said she hopes they will continue to drop further.

"I only want to reopen this economy once," she said.

Shops in the state will be open for pickup, and elective medical procedures may resume, among other reopenings.

The state tested 2,549 people on Friday, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Raimondo announced several new measures on Saturday aimed to ease those who have been hit financially, including preventing utilities from being shut off for both residential and non-residential customers in the state through May 31.

“If you’re in a position to pay, please pay," she said.

As of Saturday, Raimondo said, customers will not be forgiven for utility bills they may miss during this time; rather, the measure is intended to give them more time to pay.

The state has also partnered with a company, Summer, that specializes in helping borrowers with student loans. Rhode Island residents may currently use the company's services for free, the governor said.

The Democrat had said on Friday that Rhode Island’s Department of Health would be given the authority to close and fine business that fail to meet the state’s guidelines to reopen.

“We're not out to get anybody," Raimondo said Friday. "The goal here is to encourage compliance."

Raimondo said there will be no press conference on Sunday due to Mother's Day, and beginning next week, briefings will be limited to weekdays at 1 p.m.

Rhode Island has hit requirements put in place to judge an initial reopening, including a two-week downward or stable trend in new coronavirus cases or hospitalizations and sufficient, quick testing of people with symptoms of the virus.

The state partnered with both the federal government and food banks, including Farm Fresh Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, to provide for families in need. The state hopes to get 500 boxes of food to families in need every week, and eventually as much as 4,000 boxes a week later this summer and fall.

“We’re deeply committed to equity as we have the challenge of this crisis," Raimondo said.

The governor has said that if the state sees a future spike in cases, she could reintroduce stricter measures.

Health officials continued to encourage Rhode Island employees to work from home if they can.

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