PROVIDENCE, RI — Rhode Island is at "a turning point" in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday. Just one day after several states placed the state on their quarantine requirement lists, Gov. Gina Raimondo said it's time for the state to redouble its efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"I can't convince the other governors to change their rules," Raimondo said. "I have to convince Rhode Islanders to follow our own rules."
Starting Sunday, travelers from the 33 states on Rhode Island's "high risk" list will be required to show proof of a negative test within 72 hours of arrival, or they will be turned away from their hotel or rental. In addition, members of the National Guard and Rhode Island Department of Health employees will be stationed at T.F. Green Airport and train stations to provide information about quarantine rules to travelers, alongside increased signage in these areas.
"This means we are going to have to pay attention," Raimondo said. "You can't fight the virus. You can't trick it. It's here. If you don't want to follow the rules, this will happen."
Raimondo said that, in a way, the new travel restrictions are "a good thing" in that they provided a wake-up call to the state to do better about mask-wearing and social distancing, though it is a negative because it discourages out-of-state people from visiting the state's restaurants and retail industry, which are already suffering from the pandemic.
"Let's not get lazy. Let's keep our groups small. Wear masks. We've lost far too many Rhode Islanders to this crisis, and we need to do better," Raimondo said. "I want to get off the list ... it will hurt commerce."
To help police and state officials identify large social gatherings, the Rhode Island State Police set up a dedicated hotline, 401-764-5554, to report violations. Troopers will assess the situation and determine what agency would best respond to it, which includes the Department of Environmental Management, Department of Business Regulation, state police and local law enforcement.
Raimondo reminded Rhode Islanders that social gathering limits were lowered from 25 to just 15 people, which should be a stable group rather that different gatherings of 15 people each day or week.
"We have to go back to where we were in April, May, getting really serious about this," the governor said, encouraging everyone to resume their contact tracing logs. "I know it's a pain. I wish there were a different way around it. But there is no other way."
Anyone who violates the social gathering limit can be fined up to $500 each, not just the host, but all attendees.
Raimondo said other closures could come next week if compliance remains low, including closing beaches or lowering the capacity at restaurants.