PROVIDENCE - With “phase one” of Governor Gina Raimondo’s plan to reopen Rhode Island’s economy set to begin this weekend, Raimondo announced Tuesday that she will sign an executive order requiring all residents to wear a mask whenever they are in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The order, which will take effect Friday, expands on an existing policy that requires employees at “customer-facing” businesses to wear masks. Raimondo has previously urged all residents to wear masks in public, but the policy was not mandatory.
For the first time since she started holding daily briefings two months ago, Raimondo wore a mask herself before removing it to begin speaking. She said that rather than asking questions about the new policy or searching for reasons to not wear a mask, residents should follow a simple mantra: Don’t leave your house without a face mask.
It’s unclear if fines will be issued for people who violate the order.
Raimondo’s announcement came the same day that the Department of Health announced 14 more residents who were infected with the coronavirus have died, and 281 more people have tested positive for the contagious disease.
The state is up to 355 deaths and 9,933 confirmed cases since March, according to the health department. There are 327 people currently in the hospital, including 89 in intensive care and 62 on ventilators.
The governor said she still intends to lift a stay-at-home order on Saturday and allow “non-essential” retailers to reopen with capacity restrictions. But she has repeatedly said that individuals who have been working from home will still be encouraged to do so during the first phase of reopening the economy.
Raimondo is still answering daily questions about exactly which stores will be allowed to reopen this weekend. She acknowledged that malls will probably remain closed for the time being. She also said she expects to open one of the satellite offices for the state Department of Motor Vehicles to appointment-only visits in the coming weeks.
Raimondo also said she intends to address travel restrictions later in the week. She is expected to specifically discuss what out-of-state residents are required to do if they visit Rhode Island. The state currently requires people coming from others states who plan to stay in Rhode Island to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The latest state coronavirus data shows that four municipalities have more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 of population: Central Falls (2,595 per 100,000), Providence (1,725 per 100,000), North Providence (1,528 per 100,000), and Pawtucket (1,318 per 100,000).