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Let the games begin: R.I. set to begin youth sports and open casinos in June

Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo at her daily coronavirus update.
Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo at her daily coronavirus update.Sandor Bodo/The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE — Let the games begin.

Youth sports can commence in Rhode Island on Monday, and the Twin River casinos will open a week or two later, Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced Thursday.

The governor said she knows the pandemic has been “really hard” on the state’s youth, who are getting down and growing anxious as they miss out of graduations and proms, ballgames and recitals. But, she said, "I want you to know that summer is going to be good.”

Phase 2 of reopening the state economy will begin on Monday, and it will include summer youth sports, she announced.

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But the games will played under new rules, Raimondo said. For example, groups will be limited to no more than 15, and those groups must remain “stable,” so that teammates aren’t interacting with a whole new group of players on a regular basis, she said.

That means no traveling around the state or taking part in league tournaments, Raimondo said. Instead, June will be limited to practicing and scrimmaging in groups of less than 15, she said.

Also, players and coaches will need to wash their hands, avoid contact if possible, bring their own water bottles, and wash shared equipment, she said. Further details will be posted on the reopeningri.com website.

Raimondo said she hopes to allow league play in July if the state can safely enter Phase 3 of the reopening by then.

The virus does not seem to hit young people very hard, she acknowledged. “Thank God that is true,” she said. But those children come in contact with coaches, parents, and other older adults, so they could spread the disease to those with underlying health conditions, she said.

Raimondo also announced that the Twin River casinos in Lincoln and Tiverton will reopen on either June 8 or June 15. The casinos provide the third largest source of revenue for the state, and their closure during the pandemic has taken a big chunk out of state revenue projections.

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The Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut are set to reopen on June 1. Raimondo noted that Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont raised concerns about those casinos opening that soon, but those are tribal casinos that he cannot control.

Raimondo said that “to their credit,” Twin River executives said they weren’t going to open on June 1 because they needed more time to prepare. She said she plans to announce Friday whether the reopening date will be June 8 or 15 -- depending on when the Rhode Island sites will be “operationally ready.”

Raimondo outlined the restrictions that will be in place when restaurants open for indoor dining on Monday.

Each restaurant will be limited to 50 percent of capacity. People must make reservations, providing their names and phone numbers (but not their addresses) in case there’s an outbreak and health officials need to do contact tracing, she said. Salad bars, buffets, and other self-service food is off the menu, and there’s no congregating at the bar, she said.

Raimondo also detailed what will be in place when “personal services” — such as hairdressers and barber shops, tattoo parlors and nail salons — reopen on Monday.

Capacity restrictions will be in place, reservations will be required, and waiting areas will be discouraged, she said. So don’t expect to sit there reading a magazine while you wait because people shouldn’t be leafing through the same periodicals, she said.

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Masks will be required while you get your hair or nails done, Raimondo said. “You may say that sounds more like a hospital than a hair salon,” she said. “I get that. But it’s hopefully only a month, and it will get us out there and allow barbers and hair salons to get back to work.”

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health reported Thursday that 22 more Rhode Islanders have died from the coronavirus, bringing the state death toll to 677.

Another 124 residents have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total of positive tests to 14,494. Rhode Island has 222 people in the hospital, 53 people in intensive care, and 36 people on ventilators.

The 22 new fatalities include 18 people in long-term care facilities, said Dr. James McDonald, medical director for the Department of Health. The fatalities include one person in his or her 40s, two in their 60s, five in their 70s, 8 in their 80s, and six in their 90s.

Raimondo announced that CVS Health will be launching 10 new COVID-19 testing sites at pharmacies around the state on Friday.

Those sites will help expand the state’s capacity as it tries to ramp up testing to 10,000 tests a day by mid-summer and 15,000 to 20,000 test per day by the time school begins in the fall.

At the new CVS testing sites, people will have to make an appointment before coming in to get testing kits and then swabbing themselves in their cars before returning the kits to the pharmacy. Results will take two or three days, unlike the rapid testing CVS site at Twin River in Lincoln that provide results in 10 minutes, she said.

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Raimondo announced the state will provide an additional $5 million for rental assistance to those impacted by the pandemic. An earlier $1.5 million fund helped hundreds of families but was quickly depleted, she said. Qualifying families will get up to $5,000 for past due rent payments and other fees, she said.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com