Officials say Rhode Island is at ‘turning point’ after new travel restrictions

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — On Wednesday state officials urged Rhode Islanders to get serious after the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts all placed Rhode Island on their travel advisory lists. Those states say people traveling from Rhode Island must quarantine for 14 days, because Rhode Island’s positivity rate is too high.

Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott says a lack of federal oversight means states measure rates differently, and in this case it’s punishing Rhode Island.

“We report numbers of people and tests,” she said. “Our numbers are not being compared accurately to other states that may only be reporting based on tests.”

Still, officials acknowledge the numbers are trending in the wrong direction. Governor Raimondo is pointing to what she calls a “small spike,” with some recent days reporting new cases in the triple digits.

“We have to do more,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo. “The data’s pretty clear. We’re going up not down. We’re in a fragile place.”

Officials say about 12 percent of recent cases are travel-related, so they are also creating new restrictions for travelers visiting Rhode Island. Those visitors must quarantine for 14 days or sign a certificate of compliance proving a recent negative test result.

Raimondo says it’s a necessary step that may temporarily hurt the economy.

“This is a turning point right now,” she said. “We need to clamp down right now, and get more serious.”

The governor says that means enforcing the state’s new 15-person limit for social gatherings, and other rules like mask-wearing.

“How hard is it to wear a mask? How hard is it to stick with 15 people?” she asked.

Citizens can report groups of people exceeding the limit by calling a State Police hotline at 401-764-5554. It could result in fines of up to $500 for each person in violation.

Another major focus is expanding and expediting testing, with results in 48 hours. Rhode Islanders who plan to travel out of state can visit this new website to schedule one of these tests. They are also recommended for asymptomatic people between the ages of 18 and 39.

“We encourage people to go frequently, as often as you want to, to go and get tested,” Dr. Alexander-Scott said. “Be informed.”

But she adds being informed isn’t a reason to let down your guard.

“You could go to the next gathering without wearing a mask, that same night or the next day, and be exposed and be at risk for yourself or the loved ones around you,” Dr. Alexander-Scott said.

The governor says she hopes that people getting serious about taking these steps will help remove Rhode Island from other states’ travel advisory lists in a matter of weeks.

Categories: Coronavirus, Massachusetts, News, Politics, Regional News, Rhode Island