Block Island considering mask ordinance

OFFICIALS ON BLOCK ISLAND are considering a mask mandate for visitors to the island. / PBN FILE PHOTO/CASSIUS SHUMAN
OFFICIALS ON BLOCK ISLAND are considering a mask mandate for visitors to the island. / PBN FILE PHOTO/CASSIUS SHUMAN

NEW SHOREHAM Visitors to Block Island may be required to wear a face mask in public.

Block Island officials have been spurred into action by concerns that visitors have not been wearing face masks while traveling on the ferry and visiting the shops on Water Street. A photo that circulated on Facebook showed about 300 people, most of whom were not wearing masks, on the top deck of the Block Island Ferry.

In response, the New Shoreham Town Council moved at its meeting on June 17 to draft an amendment to its emergency coronavirus related ordinance that would require face masks be worn in public. The ordinance, if passed, would mandate an island-wide mask wearing requirement.

Jessica Willi, executive director of the Block Island Tourism Council, stated in a press release today that: “Block Island officials are asking everyone to wear a mask if they will be within six feet of someone not in their party. This applies on the ferries and on the crowded main streets of the Island. While currently the Town of New Shoreham is following the State of Rhode Island guidelines they are in discussions to enact a Block Island specific mask ordinance for the streets in town.”

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“Block Island is a popular place, especially in the summer, and especially this travel season as people will be staying closer to home. Potential visitors can expect to find themselves in crowded areas for short periods of time. We ask that you be respectful of your neighbors and the community and wear your mask,” Willi said.

“The Block Island community is doing all they can to welcome back guests and visitors in the safest, most responsible way possible. Ferries and planes, as well as business establishments, do have capacity restrictions and are following recommendations and guidance from the State of Rhode Island Department of Health and Department of Business Regulations.”

“In short, welcome to Block Island Summer, leave your troubles behind, but not your mask,” Willi added.

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, responding to complaints of people riding the ferry without wearing a mask last week, asked the public to heed safety protocols when traveling to the island.

The new Shoreham Town Council will be voting on its amended ordinance at its meeting on Wednesday, June 24.

Cassius Shuman is a staff writer and researcher at the PBN. You may reach him at Shuman@PBN.com.

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