By PHILIP MARCELO and MARK PRATT, The Associated Press
Rhode Island will be opening the door to a wide range of businesses Monday as the state’s coronavirus outbreak appears to be subsiding, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Friday.
The Democrat said she’ll sign an order to officially begin the second stage of the state’s plan to reopen its economy because hospitalizations and the rate of spread of the virus have been steadily declining.
“We can move with confidence to phase two,” Raimondo said.
Nearly every segment of the economy is expected to reopen in some fashion by Monday, including barbershops, nail salons and gyms, under the plan the governor outlined last week.
Restaurants will also be allowed to offer limited indoor dining, and churches and other houses of worship are opening this weekend.
Raimondo said Friday that visits to group homes and prisons will also be able to resume in phase two. Hospitals and nursing homes, however, will continue to have those restrictions at least through June, she said.
Rhode Island reported 16 new deaths and 122 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the death toll to nearly 700 and the total number of cases to more than 14,600 since the pandemic started in March.
Other virus-related developments in Rhode Island:
New cases in the state’s hard-hit nursing homes declined this week, state Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said Friday.
The department reported 370 new COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities this week. That’s down from 575 positive cases last week.
More than 500 people have died in nursing homes from the virus. More than 7,500 people live in the facilities in Rhode Island.
Alexander-Scott said nursing home residents and staff have been continually tested during the pandemic. A second round of testing was recently completed, and a third is underway, she said.
All state beaches will open Monday but with new restrictions, state environment officials said Friday.
The state Department of Environmental Management said lifeguards will be on duty and concessions, beach pavilions and restrooms will be open through Labor Day.
Parking will be reduced at many locations to limit crowds and parking fees will be collected until 6 p.m. each day.
Beachgoers will also be required to remain at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other groups and they’ll be encouraged to use an online ordering system for food concessions.
The Roger Williams Park Zoo, one of Rhode Island’s most popular attractions, will begin a phased reopening starting Monday when members only are invited to visit, the zoo posted on its website.
The Providence zoo, which closed to the public on March 14, will reopen to Rhode Island residents only starting Wednesday, and will reopen to all on June 8.
Visitors will also have to reserve tickets for a specific entrance time, be required to wear face coverings and have their temperatures checked before entering.
Once inside the 40-acre park, they’ll be required to follow a one-way pedestrian pattern and keep an appropriate distance from other groups.
Rhode Island’s two casinos plan to reopen June 8 by invitation only with new measures in place to ensure the health and safety of workers and guests, including temperature checks.
The reopening of the Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln and the Tiverton Casino Hotel, both operated by Twin River Worldwide Holdings Inc., will be limited to reward program members and one guest each, and each facility will be limited to about 25% of capacity.
Only video slots spaced 6 feet (2 meters) apart and virtual table games will be available at first.
Face coverings will be mandatory for guests and staff, and security staff will conduct a non-invasive temperature check on guests. The casino floors will also be continually cleaned.
Some Rhode Island towns are canceling summer camps for children even though Raimondo said camps would be allowed to go on with certain health and safety protocols in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Richmond Town Administrator Karen Pinch tells The Westerly Sun that town-run camps have been canceled because of the difficulty of adhering to the governor’s guidelines.
Hopkinton Recreation Director Mary Sawyer said the guidelines would have made running the camp next to impossible.
Charlestown Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz said distancing requirements would have made it especially difficult to care for children on rainy days.