R.I. to start significantly relaxing COVID-19 business restrictions in May

Updated at 2:04 p.m. on April 21, 2021.

CONFIRMED CASES of COVID-19 in Rhode Island increased by 318 on Wednesday. / COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island will greatly relax its restrictions on business operations and occupancies starting May 7, thanks to increased vaccination progress across the state, health officials said Thursday.

Starting that date, mask wearing will no longer be required outdoors unless people are closer than three feet. Masks will continue to be required indoors, said Gov. Daniel J. McKee, speaking at his regular COVID-19 briefing.

Also on May 7, indoor occupancy restrictions on businesses across all sectors will be uniformly increased to 80%, which should greatly help many small businesses, he said. Three-foot separation of patrons or customers, and mask wearing, will still be required for all indoor venues.

A second phase of the planned reopening will start May 28, when all businesses, including offices, retail stores, restaurants and venues of assembly, such as churches, will have 100% occupancy allowed, he said.

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In another announcement, Rhode Island, which has now vaccinated more than a half-million people with first doses, will begin piloting walk-up vaccinations at two mass-vaccination sites this weekend, said Tom McCarthy, the R.I. Department of Health executive director for COVID-19 response. The locations will be at the Dunkin Donuts Center and at the site at Sockonosset Crossing, in Cranston.

In other changes, starting May 7, party sizes in restaurants will no longer be limited.

RHODE ISLAND officials outlined the state’s timeline for reducing and eliminating COVID-19 business capacity restrictions Thursday. / COURTESY STATE OF RHODE ISLAND

Large, catered events, such as weddings, will see more flexibility as well. Indoor events will allow up to 200 people. Outdoor events can have up to 500 people, and testing requirements will be removed.

The relaxing of restrictions will coincide with Mother’s Day weekend, and will come about a week earlier than state officials had originally expected.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rhode Island increased by 318 on Wednesday, with two new deaths, the R.I. Department of Health said Thursday.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in the state totaled 140, a decline from 153 one day prior. Of those hospitalized, 23 were in an intensive care unit, a decline of three day to day, and 20 were on a ventilator, a decline of one day to day.

There have been 803,757 total COVID-19 doses administered in the state the date, a rise of 13,441 from one day prior. To date, 340,575 individuals have been fully vaccinated in Rhode Island to date, a rise of 3,662 day to day.

Cases have totaled 146,028 in Rhode Island to date, an increase of 381 from figures reported Wednesday, accounting for the day-to-day increase, as well as data revisions for previous days.

There were 19,275 tests processed Wednesday, with an overall positive rate of 1.6%. When excluding both repeat positive and repeat negative test results, the positive rate was 19%.

There have been 3.9 million tests administered in the state to date to 884,241 individuals.

Mary MacDonald is a PBN Staff writer. You may reach her at MacDonald@PBN.com.

Updated to include details from the state’s weekly COVID-19 press conference.

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