R.I. scales back Phase III reopening

Updated at 5:29 p.m.

MOVING FORWARD: Gov. Gina M. Raimondo said the state will move to Phase III of its reopening plan on Tuesday./ COURTESY R.I. COMMERCE CORP.

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s third phase of reopening the economy will begin on Tuesday, announced Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, though the phase’s standards have been revised from last week’s preview in order to restrict large gatherings.

Social gatherings will be limited to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. Social gatherings, such as weddings, with a licensed caterer can have up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

Last week, Raimondo had previewed Phase III guidelines for social gathering limits, which would have allowed 50 to 75 people for indoor events and 75 to 150 for outdoor events. The governor’s revised state guidelines come as Rhode Island and Connecticut are the only two states seeing a decline in new coronavirus cases. New COVID-19 cases throughout the U.S. reached 44,726 on June 26, which is the highest number of new cases in a single day.

“We are setting an example for the rest of America to follow,” said Raimondo, as both Texas and Arizona have closed their economies again after a new surge in cases.

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Public events, such as concerts, will be limited to 125 people indoors and 250 outdoors, where health restrictions must still be enforced. This also comes as a change from last week when the governor said outdoor events would not have limits on size.

Tourism, which is a large part of Rhode Island’s economy, will have restrictions on travelers coming from any state with a 5% or greater positivity rate. These travelers will have a mandatory 14-day quarantine unless they receive a negative COVID-19 test in their home state within the past 72 hours. This change will immediately impact 23 states in the U.S. and the list will be updated regularly on the R.I. Department of Health’s website.

Nearby states have implemented similar regulations, such as Connecticut and New York.
Raimondo admitted that enforcements of this 14-day quarantine will be difficult. She said signs will be posted on highways, rail stations and airports, among other areas.

In Phase III, bars that can provide seated service at stable tables can open. However, Raimondo said mingling in close quarters or service around a bar will not be allowed, after witnessing areas of the country that had seen spikes in cases from congregations in bars. Texas, Florida and Los Angeles all had open bars that have now been closed.

“It seems clear from the experience that all over the country, that unfortunately bars have been a hot spot, a place of contagion,” said Raimondo.

Twin River Worldwide Holdings Inc. announced Monday that its two casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton will be open fully to the public Tuesday at a “capped capacity” and will also expand its daily operating hours from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.

The casinos, which reopened June 8, restarted by allowing only invited patrons to gamble on a limited number of slot machines.

Casino capacity at the Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln will be around 3,400, while it will be approximately at 900 at Twin River Tiverton, Twin River said in a statement. Twin River also will allow some table games to take place, with no more than three players per table and both players and dealers must wear masks. Plexiglass will separate both the players and dealers. Roulette, poker and craps will not be immediately offered, Twin River said.

The governor’s briefing came as cases of COVID-19 in Rhode Island increased by 16 on Sunday, to 16,764, with six more deaths, according to the R.I. Department of Health.

The state reported a total of 103 new cases since it last released results on June 26. There were 19 coronavirus-related fatalities in the state since that last report, bringing the total to 946.

Since June 23, cases among 20-30-year-olds have increased between 60%-70%.

“You’re not following the rules,” Raimondo said to those in their 20s, many of whom she said are congregating in large crowds and not wearing masks. “You need to do better.”

There were 1,392 tests conducted on Sunday, making the state positivity rate 1.1%. There have been 238,520 total tests administered.

There are 73 people hospitalized in the state due to the virus, a decline from 93 reported on June 26. Of those hospitalized, 15 are in intensive care units and 14 are on ventilators.

Raimondo announced that less than 20% of hospital beds in the state are filled, there are consistently fewer than 15 new hospitalizations each day, as hospitalizations have been on the decline. Each of these data points, Raimondo said, including a low rate of spread, has helped her “confidently” decide to move onto Phase III.

To date, 1,627 COVID-19 patients have been discharged from hospitals.

Raimondo will extend a number of executive orders this week that are set to expire July 4. These orders include: face coverings; health insurers must continue to cover telemedicine; the disaster declaration; quarantine rules and for firearms purchases, to give law enforcement additional time to complete background checks.

(ADDS paragraphs 10-12 with Twin River details.)

PBN special projects editor James Bessette contributed to this report.

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