PROVIDENCE — Governor Gina Raimondo said Thursday she will lift Rhode Island’s stay-at-home order this weekend, but the state will still prohibit social gatherings of more than five people as it seeks to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases in the coming days.
Raimondo said the state is moving forward with its plan to begin a limited reopening of the economy, but she indicated that residents should not expect significant changes during the first phase. While non-essential retailers will be allowed to open under capacity restrictions, she encouraged people to continue to work from home if they can.
Restaurants will not be allowed to reopen for dine-in services, but Raimondo is allowing them to serve beer, wine, and mixed drinks for takeout orders. Other close-contact businesses like hair salons and massage parlors will also not be allowed to reopen for the time being.
“We’re going to start slow," Raimondo said during an afternoon press conference. She warned that the state may have to roll back its plans if it sees a spike in cases.
Raimondo said the decision to officially lift the stay-at-home order came because Rhode Island is seeing a downward trend in the three-day averages of new cases and hospitalizations. But the state also announced Thursday that 18 more people have died from the virus, bringing the total death count to 388.
Of the new fatalities, 14 people lived in long-term care facilities, and their ages ranged from their 60s to one person in their 100s. The Rhode Island Veterans’ Home reported its first two deaths of residents on Thursday.
The state was up to 10,530 confirmed cases of the contagious disease after 325 more people tested positive. There were 318 people in the hospital, 82 in intensive care, and 56 on ventilators.
Raimondo said that churches will be allowed to reopen this weekend, although they will not be allowed to welcome more than five people. She said she wants to see the religious facilities livestream their services, and she thought allowing up to five people would help with that effort.
The prohibition on social gatherings of more than five people will be extended until May 22, Raimondo said. She said funerals will be limited to 10 guests.
“This is not the time for social gatherings,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo said Rhode Island residents who travel out of state for essential services like medical needs, groceries, and gas will no longer be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days. But people who are coming to stay in Rhode Island from out of state are still required to self-quarantine for two weeks.
Raimondo said she and Health Department director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott had a conference call on Thursday with Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, where the group discussed testing and the state’s needs. She said Birx did not weigh in on her plan to reopen the economy.
During a conference call with reporters after the press conference, Raimondo said she plans to start holding live press conferences again next week. Currently, reporters are required to send in questions, and the governor also holds a 15-minute call each day with the press.