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The following was submitted by Tom Shevlin, Communications Officer for the City of Newport.

The City of Newport on Friday announced new measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, including stepped up enforcement of large gatherings as State health officials urged municipalities to plan for the worst, but work toward to the best.

In a letter to Newport’s business community, City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson said, “In light of the Governor’s strong admonishment, we’re urging the City’s entire hospitality community to heed the advice outlined by the Rhode Island Department of Health for limiting the spread of COVID-19 and cancel any gathering of 250 people or more.”

Due to the increasing severity of the situation, failure to adhere to the recommendations put forth by State health officials will be taken into account for future license considerations.

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“As I’m sure you’re aware, City ordinances require that all license holders operate their establishments in a safe and orderly environment,” Nicholson said. “In light of the current direction provided by the State, any venue operating with more than 250 people will be considered to be in direct violation of their licensing obligations and may face penalties ranging from citation to potential license suspension or revocation. Venues operating with fewer than 250 people that are deemed to be operating in an unsafe or disorderly fashion will also be subject to penalty.”

More generally, the City is also advising that all residents and visitors avoid crowded areas and keep a distance of at least six feet, both indoors or out.

Accordingly, effective today, the City will be treating the following guidelines as mandates:

•         Events that will be attended by 250 people or more should be cancelled. This recommendation includes any organized events at which people will be concentrated for sustained periods of time, such as parties, sporting events, and parades.

•          Venues operating with fewer than 250 people that are deemed to be operating in an unsafe or disorderly fashion will also be subject to penalty.

•         Do not organize events that will be attended by large numbers of older adults. (CDC’s current guidance is for organizations that serve high-risk populations to consider canceling events of more than 10 people.) Older adults are a high-risk population. At any event that older adults will attend, verbally screen people for illness, provide hand sanitizer, ensure that people are washing their hands regularly, and ensure that people are not closely concentrated for sustained periods of time.

•         Individuals who are sick should stay home, regardless of the number of people at the event. Additionally, older adults should not attend any event, regardless of their health.

•         COVID-19 prevention supplies, including soap in restrooms, hand sanitizer, and tissues, should be readily available for all patrons and employees.

“To be clear, we recognize the importance of our hospitality partners to our local economy and all those who derive their livelihoods from this important industry,” Nicholson said. “We’d also like to applaud the high level of professionalism that we’ve seen from these partners over the last several days, many of whom have reached out to us for specific guidance and all those who have taken it upon themselves to put in place additional protocols to help stop the spread of germs.”

At the moment, the most important advice we can give is for everyone to be considerate of their fellow community members. If you’re not well, or have travelled to or have had contact with anyone who lives in or has visited a community where COVID-19 is present, then please take care to follow the advice of the CDC and RI Department of Health and stay home and contact your health care provider. We’re also reminding anyone in a public-facing position including servers, bartenders, and kitchen staff to be vigilant in washing your hands, covering your cough, and if you come into contact with anyone exhibiting respiratory or flu-like symptoms, to be mindful of your own health.

Wiping down surfaces, such as tables, countertops, doorknobs, and railings, and keeping at least 6 feet apart in social settings are also critical to help stop the spread of germs. We’re also recommending that when greeting people to avoid handshakes and hugs, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, and if possible, limit interaction with individuals with underlying health conditions.

Finally, if you have any questions about how you or your business can take to help stop the spread of COVID-19, then please feel free to reach out to us at City Hall. My office is here to answer any questions that you might have either over the phone at (401) 845 – 5350, or via email at COVIDQuestions@CityofNewport.com.