Rhode Island allows trick-or-treating, with restrictions

Governor Gina Raimondo’s October 15, 2020 coronavirus update at Vets auditorium involved Halloween, mask wearing and closing businesses’ break rooms. Pool photo by Kris Craig / The Providence Journal

By The Associated Press

Children in Rhode Island will still be allowed to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Thursday, but she urged people not to hold Halloween parties, even if they are within the state’s gathering limit of 15 people.

“Trick-or-treating gives kids a sense of normalcy,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference to announce new strategies and regulations to stem a recent increase of new confirmed coronavirus cases.

Children should wear masks designed to prevent the spread of the virus, go in smaller groups, and end before dark this year, she added. She urged parents to come up with alternatives, including costume movie nights.

State police will triple enforcement efforts on Halloween, and Raimondo is asking local police departments to do the same. The state Department of Business Regulation will also step up enforcement at bars and restaurants.

She asked college and school administrators as well as parents to do their part to discourage Halloween parties, especially because the state is seeing a surge in cases among younger people.

She reminded people that hosts of parties that break the limit of 15 can be fined $500 per guest.

Reiterating that the current surge is being caused by small gatherings of family, friends and coworkers, Raimondo also ordered businesses to shut down break rooms for 90 days, while still adhering to labor laws and union rules regarding breaks.

She also asked businesses to do their part by allowing as many employees as possible to work from home, discouraging carpools and encouraging asymptomatic workers to get tested.

Because enforcement of rules is harder when it comes to smaller groups, the governor urged Rhode Islanders to take personal responsibility and “do the right thing” to stop the spread.

“It’s harder to regulate and enforce our way out of our problem now,” she said.

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CASES ON THE RISE

The Rhode Island Department of Health on Thursday reported 228 new confirmed coronavirus cases, but that was out of more than 12,300 tests performed, a positivity rate of about 1.9%.

The 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from about 1.1% on Sept. 30 to almost 1.9% on Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Raimondo has said repeatedly she wants to keep it lower than 2%.

The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from almost 117 on Sept. 30 to more than 198 on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins.

The state also reported two more virus-related fatalities, for a total of 1,149. Both patients were in their 90s.

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 was 129 as of Tuesday, the latest day for which the information was available, down slightly from the day before.

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UNEMPLOYMENT DECLINES

Rhode Island’s unemployment rate fell to 10.5% in September, down from an adjusted rate of 12.9% in August, state labor officials said Thursday.

The state has recovered nearly 60% of the jobs it lost in March and April when coronavirus restrictions shut down large sectors of the economy, according to the Department of Labor and Training.

Rhode Island’s unemployment rate remained well above the national September rate of 7.9%.

The number of unemployed Rhode Island residents — those available for and actively seeking employment — was 59,000, down 10,500 from August. The number of employed Rhode Island residents was 502,000, up 31,100 from August.

The health care and social assistance; professional and business services; retail; and accommodations and food services sectors saw the largest job gains in September, the agency said.

The educational services sector lost 2,000 jobs last month due in part to a decrease in the number of student workers at the state’s private colleges, the agency said.

Nearly 3,000 Rhode Islanders applied for unemployment insurance benefits for the week ending Oct. 10, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday, up slightly from the prior week.

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JOHNSON & WALES RESUMES CLASSES

Johnson & Wales University announced it plans to resume in-person instruction for all students next week, two weeks after moving to remote classes because of a coronavirus outbreak among students.

While all classes are expected to resume in-person instruction on Tuesday, culinary and baking and pastry lab students are expected to start Sunday and Monday.

The Providence school moved to remote learning on Oct. 5 after 38 students who lived off campus tested positive.

The school said it would test all students and as of Wednesday said it had found five additional positive cases, with some test results pending.