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Rhode Islanders have been issued a stay-at-home executive order, effective until April 13, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced during her daily briefing on Saturday.
It was just one of several the governor issued this afternoon, including:
The orders came shortly after the Rhode Island Department of Health reported the state’s first two deaths due to coronavirus, both of whom were elderly patients. Today, there are 36 new reports of COVID-19 in Rhode Island, bringing the total up to 239. Twenty-nine people are currently hospitalized.
While Raimondo thanked those who have been following her directives, she said at least half of Rhode Islanders were not acting in compliance. She said there were far too many reports of people gathering at house parties and crowding at beaches and told those residents to “knock it off.”
“You are risking the lives of everyone in this state,” she said.
What does a stay-at-home order mean?
Raimondo said that unless residents are out getting things like food, medicine or gas, they should be staying at home. People can still engage in outdoor activities like taking a walk and going to the park “if you do it with a few people and there’s ample social distance between you and the folks that you’re with,” she said.
Individuals displaying symptoms of any kind have been asked to stay home, no exceptions. They will need to get other people to complete those errands for them.
“If you are sick at all, in any way – if you have the sniffles, you have to stay at home, period,” Raimondo said.
By next week, Raimondo said it was her “goal and intention to be testing 1,000 people a day” for COVID-19. Yet without access to “ubiquitous testing” right now, the governor said she does not know how many people in Rhode Island have COVID-19.
“We do know we’re in a phase of rapid spread and we have 29 people in the hospital,” she said.
For those who are in quarantine but need help getting their groceries, medicine, or the like, Raimondo encouraged them to reach out to their town managers, mayors or to the department of health.
“We’re ramping up those services by the hour to be able to help you meet your needs,” she said.
Public gatherings of more than 5 people
This applies to “anywhere you can think of” Raimondo said – whether that was at home, in the office, or outside.
“If you’re in close proximity to more than four other people at any one time, you’re doing something wrong,” she said.
She also encouraged residents to limit their interactions to the same five people each day in order to limit the spread of the virus.
“We’re doing our best to contain this as much as possible while we ready our healthcare system for the inevitable surge that will come,” she said.
Anyone coming to Rhode Island from any other state by any form of transportation for any non-work-related purposes are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days, Raimondo said. The announcement comes a day after issuing the “fairly extreme guidance” for New Yorkers and will not apply to public safety, public health and health care providers.
For those who have to commute to Massachusetts for work, Raimondo said they can still do so – but must self-isolate in their homes once returning to Rhode Island.
After working with realtors, the Realtors Association and Airbnb, Raimondo also added the following directive:
“I am directing realtors and hotel operators to include in their rental and purchase agreements new requirements that any out of state renters must quarantine 14 days in accordance with the guidance that I’m delivering.”
Non-critical retail businesses
Starting Monday, all non-critical retail businesses are ordered to close until April 13. A full list of what constitutes a non-critical retail business will be available on the Department of Business Regulation later today, Raimondo said.
“This is a step I take reluctantly, after great consideration, and it’s a tough one,” she said.
But after seeing too many people crowded in malls and gift shops, Raimondo said it is necessary. In the meantime, she encouraged residents to continue shopping local online if they are financially able to do so. For smaller retailers in need of assistance setting up an e-commerce site, just reach out, Raimondo said.
“We’ll help you get a website up and running.”