Gov. Gina Raimondo on Tuesday encouraged residents to seek medical attention for issues other than those related to the novel coronavirus as Rhode Island slowly reopens amid the pandemic.
In her daily news briefing, Raimondo said it was "safe to go back" to hospitals, which are allowed to offer non-critical procedures, surgeries and appointments amid the state's first phase of reopening.
She said hospitals were suffering from lower traffic because of fears over the virus, but added the facilities were taking precautions such as additional cleanings in a bid to prevent its spread.
"These hospitals know what they are doing," she said, adding that people should "muster their courage" and visit hospitals if they need to, or if the facility calls to schedule an appointment.
Health officials on Tuesday announced 14 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state's death toll to 444. There were 164 additional positive cases, bringing the total to 11,614.
Despite the new cases, the governor said the state was seeing a "continued plateau" as well as a decline in hospitalizations and number of people in intensive care units, key metrics for continuing to loosen restrictions.
The remarks came amid the first phase of Rhode Island's gradual reopening process, during which some non-essential businesses have been allowed to reopen, but with restrictions in place.
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Raimondo urged residents to maintain social distancing practices, saying a spike in cases could force her to implement strict measures again.
"There is no running from this" virus, she said. "Try your best to live within the new rules."
She said it was important for residents to keep gatherings to five people or under, and to keep their social networks small. She said people should not be holding barbecues, parties or large family gatherings.
If people follow the rules and cases continue to fall, she said the state could move to loosen restrictions and enter the second phase of the reopening in a matter of "weeks, not months."
On Monday, Raimondo announced the state will allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining beginning next week.
The move provides another option to restaurants, which were restricted to take-out and delivery service under the stay-at-home order.
Diners must make reservations ahead of time and will be asked whether they are showing any symptoms of the coronavirus when they call, Raimondo said.
Among other requirements, no more than five people will be allowed per party, and tables will be set at least eight feet apart or be separated from other tables by a barrier. No more than 20 tables can be set up in a given space, the governor said.
Raimondo is urging people to remain vigilant as the restrictions are slowly lifted, saying measures such as hand washing, distancing and wearing masks remained vital. She asked older residents and those with underlying conditions to take extra care.
She urged residents to write down the names of people they come into contact with every day, and the places they visit, in what she called a "contact tracing diary."
She said those who get sick with the virus will be asked to tell health officials who they came into contact with so those people can also quarantine.