RHODE ISLAND – Gov. Gina Raimondo confirmed on Monday that Rhode Island would be entering phase three of its reopening stage tomorrow, June 30, though with a couple revisions to guidelines pertaining to large gatherings.
Though Rhode Island continues to be on a downward trend of new COVID-19 cases, there have been surges throughout the country, due reopening efforts. As of June 26, the United States saw its highest number of new cases per day, reaching 44,726.
Raimondo said that Rhode Island is one of only two states seeing a decline in new cases.
“The reality is, we are where we are because the people of Rhode Island have been following the rules,” she said. “If you stop following the rules, we’re going to have to shut down the economy again.”
On Monday, Raimondo reported that there were an additional 16 COVID-19 cases, bringing the overall total to 16,764. The governor also announced six new fatalities, bringing the total number of deaths to 946.
A total of 1,392 residents were tested the prior day.
Because of this continued downward trend, Raimondo said that Rhode Island would still be entering phase three this week, even though cases around the country are spiking.
“The story across the country is a very different story than we’re seeing in Rhode Island,” she said.
However, she said that the state would remain flexible in its approach, depending on the trend of cases and whether residents continue to follow guidelines, such as mask wearing and social distancing.
Raimondo said that if there is a spike in new cases, businesses could be shut down once again.
“I don’t want that kind of a setback to be our story. We want to keep advancing, and we can advance, if we follow the rules,” she said. “I never again want to do a lockdown of the economy.”
As of Monday, the phase three guidelines are as follows:
For social gatherings such as parties and networking events, there will be a limit of 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. However, the capacity number for gatherings with licensed caterers, like weddings, are 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
Public events like performances, festivals and religious services that take place indoors will have a limit of 125 people, or up to 66 percent capacity, with six-foot spacing; outdoor venues for events, including Fourth of July celebrations, will be capped at 250 people, though plans could be submitted for additional capacity. Masks must be worn and social distancing must be maintained.
Other places of interaction, like businesses, cultural institutions and outdoor recreation will see indoor venues operating a percent capacity of up to 66 percent capacity or 1 person per 100 square feet, depending on how they were previously operating. Six-foot distancing must always be maintained, with free-flowing venues like bowling alleys keeping to one person per 100 square feet.
While Raimondo had initially said she would allow for unlimited gatherings at outdoor public events, she said that she decided to put a capacity limit after other states throughout the country saw spikes in cases, mostly due to large gatherings.
“Phase three will begin tomorrow, but we are making some changes to limit large group gatherings in light of what we’re seeing in the rest of the country,” she said.
Events like weddings also saw a decrease in the original capacity limit that was outlined for phase three last week, though Raimondo said that if anyone had planned their weddings based on last week’s numbers, they can call the Department of Business Regulations (DBR) for more guidance and assistance.
Raimondo also said that religious venues that could safely include more than 125 people indoors should also call DBR and present their plans.
And she said bars will still have to serve customers at tables, not across the bar.
Raimondo also said that people traveling to Rhode Island from states that have a 5 percent or higher positivity rate would have to quarantine for 14 days or receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours.
There are currently 23 states throughout the country that have a 5 percent or higher positivity rate, which will make the order a “hard thing to enforce.”
The list of states can be found at the Department of Health’s website.
In the coming days, Raimondo said she would offer more guidance on how the state is going to be approaching enforcement, compliance and public awareness campaigns.
She also said that it has become “crystal clear” that masks and social distancing work, especially in light of recent large-scale protests not resulting in a spike of cases.
“I think we can say confidently that we saw no surge or increase because of the protests,” she said. “We believe that was mainly because there was compliance with mask wearing.”