With COVID-19 cases climbing in Rhode Island, Governor Raimondo on Friday held a special press conference to roll out additional restrictions/guidance.
Raimondo says she spent the past few days looking extensively at the case data and analyzing every option available to us. She believes that we can turn this trend around and bring our cases and hospitalizations back to where they were a few weeks ago. If we all put on a mask, cancel social events, and keep our distance, we’ll save hundreds of lives.
This is the first round of changes the Governor is making to our guidance. Over the next few days, the Governor says she’ll be talking with the other governors in the region, and she anticipate making additional announcements next Thursday.
Here’s the new update restrictions, in her own words;
Social Gatherings: Effective immediately, we’re reducing the social gathering limit from 15 to 10.
This needs to be a stable, consistent group. Write down the names of the people you’re going to see socially. And even with those people, we have to wear a mask.
This is the limit for informal, unstructured, social gatherings. What’s not a social gathering? Offices, buses, schools, and other controlled settings with assigned seating and other public health measures in place. We know that spread is happening in these casual, social settings and is not happening in larger but more structured environments.
To anyone who does have big parties, we’ll shut you down, and we’ll fine you up to $500 for every person there. It’s not worth it. For the next few weeks, let’s avoid social events and only see the people that we need to see.
Sports: Another area where we’re letting our guard down and getting too close is at sporting events. Effective immediately, we can no longer allow spectators at sporting events. The only exception is for players 10 and younger, who can have one parent or guardian with them while they play.
We’re also seeing spread at indoor sports facilities, like ice rinks and indoor soccer stadiums. So, effective on Monday, we’ll be closing all ice rinks and indoor sports facilities for one week. This will allow us to work with the facilities and develop new guidance around masking, testing, contact tracing, and other health protocols.
Houses of Worship: Another area where we’re seeing spread is in houses of worship. If any faith leaders are no longer offering virtual services, we’re asking them to bring that back, and proactively encourage your congregants to use that option for the next few weeks. I want to be able to hold in-person services over the holidays, but that will be dangerous unless we make a real commitment to worshipping virtually for the next few weeks.
Visitation: Our increase in hospitalizations is driven by 60, 70, and 80-year olds. For that reason, we’ll be working with our nursing homes and hospitals over the next few days to scale back on visitation. Except for certain circumstances, we want people to refrain from visiting your loved ones for just a couple of weeks. I know this is painful, and I know how much our older relatives rely on these visits. But if we don’t do this now, we’ll have no choice but to do it for a much longer period in a few weeks, and in that time, we’ll have lost more Rhode Islanders to this virus.
Governor Raimondo says that throughout that process, they’ve been guided by three principles:
1. Make targeted interventions where it matters. It’s critical that the steps we take are grounded in the science and data and that we have confidence they will be effective.
2. Protect jobs. Any new restrictions have potential impacts on the economy. It’s important to us that we are limiting economic impacts as much as possible while maximizing the public health impacts of our decision.
3. Protect education. We know that schools are not significant spreaders of COVID, and we also know how important it is that kids have the opportunity for in-person learning. Structured environments help prevent spread. Sending more kids home to learn virtually would just take kids out of structured environments and into unstructured environments, leading to more spread and more cases. So, we made sure our interventions would not threaten kids’ ability to get the best possible education.
Here’s the changes we’re making: