This Just In: McKee brings back a mask mandate

Gov. Dan McKee

Good afternoon and welcome to This Just In. I'm Mike McDermott, managing editor of The Providence Journal.

Starting Monday, masks will be required in many if not most indoor establishments across Rhode Island. As part of his plan for containing the latest COVID surge, Gov. Dan McKee is requiring that masks be worn regardless of vaccination status in all indoor establishments with a capacity of more than 250. Smaller venues, and some large private businesses with no public-facing operations, may require proof of vaccination as an alternative to masking.

While many health-care leaders, and McKee's Democratic rivals in the 2022 race for governor, have been calling on the governor to reinstate a mask mandate for days, the reaction from businesses and churches was mixed.

-The Rhode Island Hospitality Association expressed concern for the safety of staff members who will be expected to enforce the new rules, and urged patrons to be kind.

-The National Federation of Independent Business described the new rules as "troubling" at a time when small businesses are facing numerous headwinds.

-Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin urged parishioners to follow the new rules while saying that no one should be turned away from Mass or "singled out" if they choose not to wear a mask.

We'll have much more on the new requirements in the hours and days to come.

The Rhode Island Department of Health on Wednesday announced five more coronavirus-related deaths and 1,403 additional cases of COVID-19, along with 17,189 negative tests, for a 7.5% positive rate. There were 280 COVID-positive patients in Rhode Island hospitals at last count, up from 266 reported Tuesday, with 44 in intensive care. The number of hospitalized patients is the highest since Feb. 6.

Rhode Island has reported an average of 1,090 new cases a day over the last seven days, up 27% from a week ago and up 82% from two weeks ago. The seven-day average is the highest it's been since Jan. 11.

In some school districts, illnesses and quarantines have taken such a toll that high-level administrators are finding themselves teaching classes.

In non-COVID news of note: The Pawtucket City Council has approved a $17.7-million court settlement to acquire the landmark Apex property and four adjacent properties, putting an end to a long-running dispute over the city's redevelopment ambitions. What happens next on the land is undecided.

In East Greenwich, the neighborhoods popularly known as "The Hill" and "The Harbor" are synonymous. So when they found the two neighborhoods separated in Rhode Island's proposed redistricting map, many residents were horrified.

The North Kingstown Police Department is mourning the loss of a 26-year veteran, Capt. Paul Barry, who died Monday after "a sudden onset illness."

Speaking of North Kingstown, it's been a tough time for the town's high-school basketball team, following the loss of its former head coach among allegations that are now being investigated by the attorney general's office. As Eric Rueb writes, last night's season-opening win over Cumberland brought a welcome sense of normalcy.

Finally, here's something new: a Japanese-Latino fusion ice-cream shop in the heart of Providence.

Have a great night. And remember, if you enjoy This Just In, please encourage a friend to sign up.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: McKee brings back a mask mandate