Raimondo warns of stricter COVID-19 guideline enforcement; R.I. deaths increase by 2

Updated at 2:08 p.m. on July 8, 2020.

REPORTED DEATHS DUE to COVID-19 in Rhode Island have reached 971. / COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
REPORTED DEATHS DUE to COVID-19 in Rhode Island have reached 971. / COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

PROVIDENCE – There may be a crackdown on enforcement aimed at businesses not complying with state-mandated health guidelines to contain the coronavirus, announced Gov. Gina M. Raimondo during her briefing on Wednesday.  

The governor’s goal since the beginning of the reopening process has not to be heavy-handed. She said most businesses have been cooperative, but there are still some that have blatantly not followed the rules by the state.  

Raimondo announced that if a business has blatant social distancing issues, their first offense will result in the issuing of a compliance order or they might be issued a fine on the spot. For a businesses’ second offense, they will be issued a fine or be shut down until they have demonstrated that they’ve made appropriate changes.  

Less significant violations, such as face masks issues or a lack of signs, Raimondo said that business will likely receive a warning for their first offense. On their second offense, she said the business will likely receive a compliance order or a fine.  

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Individuals can also register a complaint on a business for non-compliance on the R.I. Department of Business Regulations’ website. Further information on the enforcement changes will also be uploaded on DBR.RI.gov, by the end of Wednesday, according to the governor.  

DBR also has on its website a transparency portal noting which businesses have received COVID-19 compliance orders from the state.

Eight businesses based in Coventry, East Greenwich, North Providence, Providence, Warren, Westerly and West Greenwich have received such orders. One business noted, Harris Bar and Grille in Coventry, received an immediate compliance order.

During her June 29 press conference, Raimondo, in response to questions from Providence Business News, said the state needed to step up enforcement and admitted it had a “very light touch” on guideline enforcement at the time.

A July 3 PBN editorial stated that creating such a portal “needs to be done immediately” in order to “help build public confidence in the enforcement” and show consumers who was – and wasn’t – complying with the regulations.

“I’ve instructed our inspectors to work in partnership with businesses,” said Raimondo. “If you’re trying, we want to work with you.” 

Over the July 4 holiday weekend, Raimondo said inspectors observed that 20% of restaurants that were not taking names and phone numbers for parties. 

“This is a problem because if there’s an outbreak, then we have to get in touch with you,” said Raimondo. “Our whole effort is around testing and contact tracing.”  

In more than 10% of restaurants observed by inspectors over the weekend, the governor said they observed crowding and mingling.  

Raimondo also warned that no bar should be operating as a “bar,” but more like a restaurant. 

Also over the holiday, Raimondo said that the R.I. Department of Environmental Management passed out thousands of masks, so there was better compliance with them being worn. She said DEM was out in “full force” at beaches and parks to break up large crowds and that overall, most people were patient and compliant.

The governor’s briefing comes as cases of COVID-19 in Rhode Island increased by 41 on Tuesday, totaling 17,204 to date, the R.I. Department of Health said Wednesday. 

The three-day average for new cases was 40. 

Health officials reported two more deaths due to the virus on Wednesday, increasing the overall death to 971. 

“I hope you look at this and breathe a sigh of relief,” said Raimondo. “We continue to head in the right direction.” 

Hospitalizations due to the virus totaled 56, a one-patient increase day to day. Of those hospitalized, five were in intensive care units and five were on ventilators. The three-day average of hospitalizations in the state was 57. 

There were 3,383 COVID-19 tests conducted in the state with a positive rate of 1.2%. To date, there have been 264,216 tests administered in Rhode Island. 

Raimondo announced that visitors coming from one of the now 28 states with a 5% positivity rate or higher will have to quarantine for 14 days or receive a negative COVID-19 test. If they want a test conducted in Rhode Island, they will have to pay out of pocket, which will cost about $100, and will have to quarantine while waiting for their results.  

These requirements will not apply to those traveling to the state for work, picking up their children from camp, coming for medical treatments or attending a wake or funeral. 

This story has been updated to add information from the governor’s press briefing.  

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