Two-week pause goes into effect in Rhode Island to help stop spread of coronavirus

RHODE ISLAND (WLNE) – The state of Rhode Island entered a two-week “pause” on Monday, an effort by Governor Gina Raimondo and the Rhode Island Department of Health to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

An alert was sent to cell phones of Rhode Islanders Monday morning, reminding people of the pause.

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During the two weeks, the following will remain open:
  • All Pre-K-8 classrooms
  • Childcare centers
  • Manufacturing and construction jobs
  • Personal services
  • Healthcare centers
The following will be limited during the two-week pause:
  • High schools may move to distance learning, at the discretion of the superintendent
  • Social gatherings are limited just to those in your immediate household
  • Indoor dining is scaled back to 33% capacity and restaurants must close early
  • Restaurants can only seat members from the same household together at one table indoors
  • Retail will stay open with the existing capacity limits of 1 person per 100 sq. ft. for most retail and 1 person per 150 sq. ft. for big box stores
  • Houses of worship can remain open, but with a maximum of 25% capacity
The following will be closed during the two-week pause:
  • Colleges and universities will move virtual
  • All offices that can work remotely are encouraged to do so
  • Bar areas in restaurants and bars will close
  • Recreational venues like bowling alleys, theaters, and casinos will close
  • Indoor sporting facilities will close, along with gyms, all group fitness classes, and organized sports

Many industries will be impacted by the pause, but the restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard since the start of the pandemic.

“33% (capacity) is not enough to make it in this business. Plain and simple.”

Leonard Mello owns Tavolo Wine Bar & Tuscan Grille with locations in Providence, Smithfield, and Warwick. He said he’s already seeing the effects of the pause.

“The pause started probably two weeks ago when we started talking about the pause. I think a lot of people got scared back then to not come out, and I think, starting today, we’re going to see a bigger hit.”

In addition to the lowered capacity, restaurants must close their bar areas, which is another hit to business.

“We spent the money on the plexiglass, we invested in all the extra materials, did what we were told, and now we’re being told it’s not good enough,” Mello said.

With the social gathering limit lowered to just those in your household, restaurants can only seat people who live together at one table. Mello said he’s not aware of any state guidance on how to enforce that.

“I’m not sure how we’re going to enforce it, to be honest with you. It’s something we can do as an ask the guest, but beyond that, you get to a point where now am I invading people’s privacy by asking for licenses and documentation? I think that’s above and beyond what we should be doing.”

Across Mello’s three locations, he had to cut staff by 30% starting Monday and has cut his seating down by 30-40%.

He said he has applied for grants but hasn’t received any cash yet, and his business is quickly losing a lot of revenue.

“We’re seeing about a 50-60% decrease in sales over prior years for certain months, and that’s just not sustainable. It’s already a tight business as it is, a game of pennies in this business, so we’re looking at real hard times right now.”

The application to apply for the state’s grants to help businesses during the two-week pause can be found here.

© WLNE-TV 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island, Warwick