State to crack down on businesses flouting coronavirus rules

Governor Gina Raimondo holds a recent Covid-19 briefing at the Veterans Auditorium. with RI Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott at her side. Pool photo by Sandor Bodo / The Providence Journal

The Associated Press 

Rhode Island is about to come down harder on businesses that continue to flout rules designed to prevent a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the state, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday.

Although state inspections of businesses have found that the vast majority are complying with regulations meant to stop overcrowding and ensure staff and customers wear masks, many willfully continue to resist, the Democrat said at a news conference.

“There are those of you out there, and you know who you are, you’re not even trying,” she said. “Your own employees, your own hosts and hostesses, are whispering to your customers ‘Don’t worry about the mask, oh it’s OK, oh we got this,’ and we’re going to crack down on you because it’s not fair to the rest of the restaurants.”

Going forward, businesses that show “egregious disregard” for the regulations could be issued a compliance order or fined on the spot, she said. A second offense could lead to a shutdown until the business makes the appropriate changes.

Businesses that make what she called “honest mistakes” will get a warning for a first offense.

The state is also setting up a way for citizens to register complaints about non-compliant businesses.

___ TOURIST TESTING

Tourists visiting Rhode Island from states with a 5% or higher coronavirus positive testing rate are required to quarantine for 14 days, Raimondo said.

But, the state is setting up 10 sites where tourists can be tested at their own expense, so they will only have to quarantine until their test comes back negative.

Tourists who can prove that they got a negative test result in their home state within 72 hours prior to arriving in Rhode Island are also not required to quarantine.

International visitors are still required to quarantine for 14 days.

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NURSING HOME AND HOSPITAL VISITS

Nursing homes and hospitals in Rhode Island are now open to visitors who want to see their loved ones, but with additional public health safety conditions in place, Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said on Wednesday.

At nursing homes, visits must be scheduled in advance, should be held outdoors if possible, with appropriate social distancing and mask wearing, she said.

Visitors to hospitals will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19, will be required to wear face coverings, and won’t be allowed to congregate in common areas such as waiting rooms and gift shops.

RESTAURANT TEMPORARILY CLOSES

A Block Island restaurant has temporarily closed at the height of the tourist season so it can undergo a thorough cleaning and its staff can be tested for the coronavirus after a seasonal worker tested positive for the disease last weekend.

Finn’s in a statement posted on its website said it plans to reopen sometime later this month, although the exact date has yet to be determined.

The worker’s test result came back late Sunday, according to a posting on the town of New Shoreham’s website Monday. The worker was not publicly identified, but had previously tested negative, restaurant management said.

Staff members who had direct contact with the worker are quarantining and contact tracing by the state Department of Health has started.

It was the first confirmed case of the disease on the resort island since late March, when a resident who had visited New York tested positive.

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HEALTH DEPARTMENT NUMBERS

The number of people in Rhode Island hospitals with confirmed cases of the coronavirus is holding steady, the state Department of Health reported Wednesday.

There were 56 patients with the disease in the hospital on Monday, the most recent day for which data were available, one more than the day before. Five were in intensive care.

The department also reported two new coronavirus-related deaths and 41 new confirmed cases, for a total of 971 deaths and more than 17,200 known cases.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.