SOUTH COUNTY – After seeing a dramatic increase in the number of coronavirus cases in New York, The Towns of Narragansett and South Kingstown have both issued executive orders to newly-arrived seasonal residents and visitors to self quarantine.
Due to the seaside community’s large population of seasonal and part-time residents, Narragansett Town Manager James R. Tierney said they are “acutely aware of the potential for community spread associated with interstate travel.”
Those who are arriving in Narragansett from locations where “shelter in place” orders are in effect, especially homeowners and seasonal residents traveling from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts, are asked to place themselves in self-quarantine for a period of two weeks.
During this time, these individuals should be monitoring themselves daily “for any flu-like symptoms, including fever, nausea, body aches and sore throats or coughs,” according to Tierney.
While the Town of Narragansett currently does not have any plans to issue a formal stay-in-place order, residents are being asked to stay at home as much as possible.
“All of us, even the young and healthy, should stay home for the next few weeks,” Narragansett Town Council President Matt Mannix wrote in an email on Thursday morning.
After having multiple members of the community and the council reach out to him, Mannix also reminds residents that the town beach is closed, and to avoid large gatherings of 10 people or more.
“Narragansett’s residents are resilient and hardy,” he wrote. “At this time, we also need to exhibit another character trait: patience. On my end, I promise to continue to work with town staff to protect Narragansett’s residents against this threat.”
South Kingstown Town Manager Robert Zarnetske also signed a very similar executive order on Wednesday, requiring newly-arrived seasonal residents and visitors to place themselves in quarantine for 14 days.
The decision was made in response to Rhode Island shoreline communities having seen an unseasonably high number of visitors in recent days, according to Zarnetske.
“Many New York and Connecticut residents own summer homes in Southern Rhode Island and these summer residents are an important part of our economy and contribute significantly to the character of our community,” Zarnetske wrote in a notice to these individuals. “We implore those coming in from the New York metropolitan areas to engage in safe social distancing practices.”
“While South Kingstown may seem like a safe refuge from the outbreak in the city, we still need to remember that we are only as safe as the practices we use to limit the spread of the virus,” he added.
The South Kingstown executive order, same as Narragansett, will require all seasonal residents, visitors and residents who’ve recently traveled to New York to also place themselves under self quarantine for two weeks. This means remaining at your residence, with the exception of medical care or emergencies.
Those who are in self quarantine are required to have food and other necessities delivered to the residence, rather than heading out to the grocery store themselves.
The penalty for not placing oneself under quarantine in South Kingstown is steep – punishable by a fine of up to $500, with every day a violation continues considered a separate violation. Though seemingly difficult to enforce, during a telephone interview on Wednesday, Zarnetske said police will be asking those who are out-and-about where they reside.
If a police officer were to see someone with New York license plates walking into a liquor store, it would be completely acceptable for them to ask when they arrived in town, Zarnetske said.
The South Kingstown executive order is also requiring all short-term lodging owners and operators, including their agents and employees, to cease taking new reservations. This order will be in place until April 15, and will include lodging in hotels, inns, motels, and online rental platforms – like Airbnb. The $500 fine will also apply to those who continue lodging operations.
All essential businesses remaining open will be required to post a copy of the order in a prominent place.
Though this executive order is directed to seasonal residents and visitors, Zarnetske stressed that everyone is being encouraged to stay home. During this pandemic, all residents are strongly advised to minimize their risk through the use of social distancing.