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    Monday, January 30, 2023

    R.I. governor cracks down on social gatherings, sporting events

    Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo on Friday reduced the maximum number of people allowed at casual social gatherings from 15 to 10, barred spectators from youth sporting events, closed indoor sports facilities, and ordered businesses to remind customers to wear masks in an effort to stem a rising wave of new coronavirus cases.

    The restrictions were announced on a day when the state Department of Health reported another 482 confirmed cases, and a daily test positivity rate of 3.3%.

    “Unfortunately, things aren't getting any better," the Democratic governor said at a news conference.

    State data is clear that the spread is being fueled by small, unstructured social gatherings where people let their guard down and stop wearing masks, and not in structured settings such as workplaces and schools, she said. So she told residents to limit their social network to the same 10 people and avoid all nonessential activities, including parties, barbecues, baby showers and similar gatherings.

    The goal of the new regulations is to disrupt schools and commerce as little as possible.

    As an example of the kind of activity that's causing problems, she pointed to a recent house party attended by more than 20 high school students that has resulted in 12 positive cases so far, affected four school districts and could require hundreds of people to quarantine.

    “That's the kind of stuff that's getting us into trouble,” she said.

    Hosts of parties and other gatherings that violate the 10-person limit are subject to a fine of $500 per guest over the limit, and Raimondo promised stricter enforcement.

    Because a significant number of new cases have been linked to sporting events, spectators are banned from youth and school sports for two weeks, she said. Also, as of Monday, all skating rinks and indoor sports facilities will be required to close for one week while the state comes up with new safety protocols.

    The rules around sports do not apply to colleges or pro teams.

    Businesses will now be required to verbally remind customers not wearing a face covering that they have an obligation to put on a mask or leave the premises, she said.

    The state has a field hospital in Cranston with 300 beds ready to open, and her goal is to make sure it is not needed, she said.

    “We’re on a path right now, if we don’t make a change, of having to open it in about four weeks,” she said.

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    VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

    Rhode Island's seven-day average positivity rate and seven-day average of new cases continue to rise.

    The latest average positivity rate in Rhode Island is 3%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island, The Associated Press calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

    The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 199 new cases per day on Oct. 15 to more than 388 new cases per day on Thursday.

    The state on Friday reported 482 new cases the previous day, the sixth day out of the last nine the daily total has surpassed 400, according to the Department of Health.

    The state also reported six new coronavirus-related deaths, for a total of 1,201 fatalities.

    The number of people in the hospital with the disease was 152 as of Wednesday, the latest day for which the information was available, down from 154 the previous day. Fifteen patients are in intensive care and nine are on ventilators.

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