Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday announced new measures impacting travelers, restaurants and large parties as the state’s coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Starting Sunday, visitors from more than 30 states with high rates of COVID-19 will have to sign a certificate confirming they’ll abide by the state’s 14-day quarantine if they want to stay at hotels and rental properties in Rhode Island, the Democrat said.
Those who refuse to sign the statement — or don’t provide proof of a recent negative coronavirus test — can be denied lodging, she said.
Raimondo said the traveler certification is akin to a successful policy implemented by Maine.
The new restrictions come as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts this week added Rhode Island to their lists of states where arriving travelers must self-quarantine, or provide proof they’re not infected with COVID-19.
Raimondo said the restrictions imposed by other states will hurt the state’s largely tourism-driven economy, and should serve as a “wake up call” to Rhode Islanders that they need to do better to comply with basic virus safety measures.
“We’re at a turning point right now,” Raimondo said. “We need to clamp down and get more serious.”
The state will also be making rapid COVID-19 tests available to Rhode Islanders planning to travel to the states imposing the new restrictions starting this week, she said.
A look at other coronavirus developments in Rhode Island:
BARS AND RESTAURANTS
Starting Friday, bars and restaurants will have to close their bar areas by 11 p.m. each night, Gov. Raimondo announced Wednesday.
The Democrat said roughly 20% of establishments visited by state inspectors last week were still not properly separating bartenders from patrons, despite her administration’s recent efforts to crackdown on scofflaws.
She warned she’ll order bars statewide closed entirely if there isn’t better compliance.
“We’ve been bending over backwards to keep bars open,” Raimondo said. “Too many are pushing the limits. People can’t congregate around bar areas. I can’t be any clearer.”
Rhode Island State Police will be stepping up enforcement of the state’s tightened limits on house parties and other social gatherings.
Gov. Raimondo said Wednesday the agency has created a new “Crush COVID” unit to enforce the limits, which she lowered to 15 people per gathering last week.
Violators will be subject to a $500 fine, which would be assessed to every person in attendance and not just the host, she said.
Anyone seeing large gatherings violating the state’s laws are also encouraged to report them at the state’s new hotline: (401) 764-5554.
NEW HEALTH DATA
The Rhode Island Department of Health reported 91 new confirmed coronavirus cases and one more death on Wednesday.
The new cases included 84 positive tests on Tuesday, and seven that were added to Monday’s total. There have now been nearly 19,500 confirmed cases and 1,012 coronavirus deaths in Rhode Island, according to the state Health Department.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from nearly 57 new cases per day on July 21 to 95 on Aug. 4, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island has risen from nearly 4% on July 21 to 6% on Aug. 4, according to Johns Hopkins.
The Rhode Island Family Court is holding night sessions to deal with a backlog of cases because of the coronavirus pandemic, court officials say.
Chief Judge Michael Forte will preside over nine uncontested divorces on Thursday evening and another nine on the evening of Aug. 20.
The sessions will be conducted remotely and streamed live.
Bryant University has invested nearly $3 million to conduct weekly on-campus COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff this fall.
Results from the self-administered test will be available within 24 hours.
Face coverings and social distancing will still be required on campus.