R.I. to loosen limits on restaurants, events and gyms

Updated at 2:06 p.m. on March 4, 2020.

CASES OF COVID-19 in Rhode Island increased by 375 on Wednesday. / COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island will allow restaurants to increase their capacities, and reinstitute dancing at catered events including weddings, according to a briefing from state officials Thursday.

The increased flexibility for business operations is intended to help businesses compete, while maintaining restrictions that have helped public health results, according to Stefan Pryor, the state’s commerce commissioner.

He outlined improvements in four areas:

Effective Friday, restaurants will be allowed to increase seating capacity to 66% from 50%, which restores them to their status before Rhode Island entered a two-week pause to control infections.

- Advertisement -

Also effective Friday, gyms and fitness centers can have more density, going to one customer per 100 square feet from one to 125 square feet. This can mean as little as a few more customers for small gyms or studios, to several dozen for large facilities, Pryor said.

Gyms that hold outdoor fitness classes will no longer have a capacity limit, as long as people stay at least six feet apart and wear masks.

Catered events, he said, will soon have new state guidance on dancing, he said, which will allow dancing at formal events such as weddings.

“We know that’s important to stay competitive,” Pryor said.

The state continues to anticipate it will allow weddings and other catered events to increase capacity starting in April to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors.

Finally, Pryor said funerals may double their capacities, to 30 people for an indoor service and 50 outdoors. The current restrictions are 15 indoors and 25 outdoors.

The incremental adjustments are enabled because the state officials feel that the current infection and hospitalization rates justify more flexibility for businesses, he said.

Cases of COVID-19 in Rhode Island increased by 375 on Wednesday, with five more deaths.

The daily positivity rate was 1.9%. When excluding both repeat positive and repeat negative test results, the positive rate was 19.6%.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in the state totaled 148, an increase of one day to day. Of those hospitalized, 23 were in an intensive care unit, level with one day prior, and 16 were on a ventilator, an increase of two from the day before.

In vaccinations, the state has made important progress, according to Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the R.I. Department of Health director.

To date, the state has administered nearly 290,000 doses, including giving a first shot to 25% of Rhode Islanders who are 16 or older.

Of all doses, 206,765 have been first doses, a rise of 6,781 from figures reported Wednesday, and 82,642 second doses have been administered, a rise of 2,914 day to day.

Cases of COVID-19 in the state have totaled 127,727 to date, a rise of 442 from figures reported Wednesday, accounting for both the day to day increase, as well as data revisions for previous days.

Deaths due to the virus in the state have totaled 2,539 to date.

A total of 3.07 million tests have been administered in the state to date to 800,855 individuals.

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

Updates throughout to include information from the state’s weekly COVID-19 press conference.

No posts to display