PROVIDENCE - Many bars in Rhode Island are not complying with social distancing measures, Governor Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday. In her COVID-19 briefing, the governor pointed to inspections conducted by the Department of Business Regulation on Friday that found 18 percent of bars and restaurants examined not practicing adequate social distancing.
"We have to do better than that," said Raimondo. "Otherwise I'll have to do what they did in Los Angeles and Texas and shut the bars, which I really don't want to do."
"Here's the way to think about it," the governor continued. "To be open as a bar, you have to essentially be operating as a restaurant, not as a bar. We cannot have congregating around a bar. And we had way too much of it. We know from experience in other places, this will get us into trouble."
As a response, Raimondo said the state would be "cranking up enforcement" - getting more aggressive with with fining and compliance orders for establishments that continue to be found in violation despite initial warnings.
The development comes as many states around the country surge in new coronavirus cases, while Rhode Island is one of two, along with Connecticut, that is seeing a downward trend.
Raimondo on Wednesday announced an additional 27 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing Rhode Island's total to 16,853 cases. There were an additional six COVID-19-related fatalities in the state reported Wednesday, making a total of 956 deaths in Rhode Island. 1,829 people were tested in the prior day to achieve the above data.
The governor also urged the public to practice social distancing, handwashing and mask-wearing over the July 4 weekend, stressing that social gatherings are limited to 25 people.
"Please go out of your way this weekend to follow the rules," said Raimondo. "We don't want to be one of these states that's back in trouble."
"Please just remember people in Rhode Island are dying every single day because of coronavirus," she added.
Due to the holiday, Raimondo will not be hosting a COVID-19 press briefing on Friday or Monday, and will return to schedule at 1 p.m. starting next Wednesday, July 8.