Entering Phase One: Raimondo previews a cautious opening of R.I.’s economy

Some outdoor dining and limited in-store browsing would be permitted;

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE)– At an afternoon press briefing Monday, Governor Gina Raimondo offered a preview of what life could look like when the state enters “phase one” of its reopening strategy at the end of the week.

As the governor’s stay-at-home order expires on Friday, Raimondo said she has every intention of lifting the order for Saturday. But there was a note of caution attached to the governor’s optimism.

“It is not going to look radically different than it does now,” Raimondo said.

However, there will be opportunities for limited in-store shopping and outdoor dining at restaurants.

Retailers would be allowed to have one person inside for every 300 square-feet of space.

Stores should still encourage curbside pick-up and contact-less payment where possible, and face-coverings would still be required for customers and staff, Raimondo said.

For restaurants, Raimondo said the question of getting back into business was complicated.

Phase one would see customers allowed to dine outdoors in limited numbers– seating would be by reservation only, and there would be no reused or shared objects like menus or condiments.

Restaurants should still encourage curbside pick-up and accelerate take-out options, Raimondo said.

Those that lack outside dining may not reopen during phase one, or they could “get creative”.

Raimondo suggested some restaurants may be able to convert a portion of their parking spaces into an outdoor-dining section.

Little would change from protocols currently in effect at the state’s office-based business, Raimondo said.

Working from home, wherever possible, would still be the norm.

However, workers might be able to visit the office when necessary- such as getting tech support, or for limited in-person meetings.

Raimondo suggested schedules could be staggered to limit interactions between staff. Workers should also organize into small groups, as the governor said all Rhode Islanders should “keep their network small”.

Workers should still maintain six-feet of distance and practice frequent hand-washing.

Raimondo said the state will be working to make sure businesses are complying with the guidelines.

Phase one will also see expanded medical services available. Raimondo said now was the time to start scheduling appointments with doctors for elective surgeries and procedures like x-rays that residents may have been putting off.

The state was working with specialists, dentists, and other healthcare providers to enact polices that would keep staff and patients safe, the governor said.

The visitation policy at hospitals and nursing homes will not change under the reopening guidelines- meaning visitors are still not allowed. The governor said the decision was difficult ahead of Mother’s Day on Sunday, but was necessary to protect the state’s vulnerable elderly population.

Raimondo said phase one should last 14 days, but all progress would be “slow and steady”, as she urged “patience and flexibility” during the reopening plan.

Raimondo acknowledged Rhode Island will see a return of some businesses and activities ahead of neighboring states.

Highlighting the high-rate of testing per capita in the state, and data that showed hospitalizations were stable, the governor said, “I wouldn’t do it I didn’t think we were ready.”

Over the weekend, the governor said the Department of Business Regulations surveyed 300 businesses across the state and found a high rate of compliance with distancing orders.

The department reported 95 percent of customers and staff were wearing face-coverings, and 100 percent of businesses maintained a 6-foot distance between customers while waiting to enter.

Reflecting on the past two months of life in reaction to the virus, Raimondo said she was encouraged by the “everyday acts of kindness” she’s witnessed– whether business leaders donating protective equipment, or neighbors looking out for one another.

“I’ve never been prouder to be a Rhode Islander,” Raimondo said.

©WLNE-TV/ABC 6 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Rhode Island