Raimondo orders R.I. break rooms closed to limit COVID-19 spread

PROVIDENCE Break rooms in Rhode Island have been ordered to close in businesses for the next 90 days to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, announced Gov. Gina M. Raimondo during her press conference on Thursday.

Raimondo asked for Rhode Island’s employers to find alternative ways for their employees to take a break as break rooms have been a source of spread for the coronavirus.

“Encourage employees to go outside,” said Raimondo, and suggested outdoor tents or setting up a larger room for breaks where windows can be opened.

If it’s impossible for an employer to close a break room, Raimondo suggested only allowing one person in at a time, increasing ventilation by opening windows, removing tables and chairs and if possible, have designated “enter” and “exit” doors to control the traffic flow of people.

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New regulations surrounding break rooms will be announced on ReopeningRI.com, according to the governor. This new restriction does not include cafeterias.

In Raimondo’s second press conference this week, she outlined suggestions for Rhode Islanders to follow instead of firm restrictions.

“Encourage your employees to get tested, even if they’re asymptomatic,” said Raimondo.

When asked why it took an additional 24 hours to announce a restriction on break rooms, Raimondo said she “wanted to get it right.”

She suggested close contact workers, those age 18-39, those traveling to another state that requires a test or returning from a state a 5% positive rate or higher, or recently attended a large protest or demonstration to get tested for COVID-19. Appointments for free tests can be made here.

“We don’t want anymore stay-at-home orders,” Raimondo said.

In a sounding-of-the-alarm, the governor made it clear that Rhode Island’s COVID-19 data is creeping up in cases as small, intimate congregations are causing further spread.

“The numbers are creeping up. That means we need to do something more,” said R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. “Let’s make Rhode Island the state that is leading the way of changing the trajectory.”

“Mask wearing should now be the default.”

Alexander-Scott recommended employers to post signs around the workplace about vigilant hand washing, mask wearing and keeping six feet apart for social distancing purposes.

Alexa Gagosz is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at Gagosz@PBN.com. You may also follow her on Twitter at @AlexaGagosz.

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