Rhode Island hitting pause for two weeks

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BOSTON (WWLP/SHNS) – The governor of Rhode Island on Thursday reduced her state’s gathering limit to a single household effective immediately and announced that Rhode Island will “shut it down for two weeks” beginning after Thanksgiving in an effort to prevent a catastrophic surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

During the “pause” from Nov. 30 through Dec. 13, colleges and universities must stop in-person instruction, offices that can close must, bar areas will not be permitted to open, gyms will be closed, the state’s casinos will be closed, and organized sports other than college or professional teams must stop.

Indoor dining in Rhode Island will also be reduced to 33%. Massachusetts restaurants currently have to close by 9:30 p.m. and restaurant managers like Michael Stone at the Hangar in Amherst expect to see restrictions tightened in the coming weeks.

“We’re planning on it and we know it’s a real possibility in the very near future,” said Michael Stone at Hangar Pub and Grill in Amherst. “We have discussions among the management team and owners and we’ve been through it once before and we’ll be ready again.”

Stone said he hopes his business doesn’t have to go through another shutdown, but knows it could be a possibility as the holiday season quickly approaches.

In terms of a shutdown, Governor Baker has said that he doesn’t believe that the state is in the same spot as it was before the last shutdown in early spring.

Kindergarten through 8th grade can remain in the classroom for instruction, but in-person high school will be limited in Rhode Island. Gov. Gina Raimondo warned that even more severe restrictions will be in the offing next month if Rhode Islanders do not adhere to the rules.

“This is only going to work if we do it. I don’t know how to say it any other way. This is only going to work if we decide to do it. So if you’re out there now asking yourself how you can get around the rules, this isn’t gonna work,” she said. “I’ll be back here in three weeks and it’ll be a full state lockdown, I’ll tell you that right now because I’ll be out of options.”

The Ocean State’s new gathering limit could put a damper on some Thanksgiving plans, but Raimondo said Rhode Island hospitals are at “a tipping point” and inter-household gatherings next week could ignite a catastrophe.

“If your household is two people, you should limit your social gatherings effective immediately to those two people. Again, if you live in a house with six or seven people, that’s your social gathering limit,” she said. “You cannot be spending social time indoors with people who you don’t live with.”

Raimondo also urged Rhode Islanders not to travel out of state for Thanksgiving, but said her administration will make BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests available at T.F. Green Airport the weekend after Thanksgiving so people who do travel can be tested upon their return.

“I know someone’s gonna say, ‘but can I drive to Massachusetts to see my grandmother? Can I just go to New Hampshire to see my uncle?’ No. You shouldn’t do it, I’m asking you not to do it,” the governor said. “I’m asking you to stay at home and hang out with the people that you live with. But if you’re going to do it, that means you’re breaking the rules and putting people’s lives at risk.”

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