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Fitness Centers and Gyms to Open: Summary of the governor’s May 27 press conference

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Providence Pedestrian Bridge.

Governor Gina Raimondo and Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott gave the COVID-19 press conference at 2:30pm today at The Vets.

There are 143 new COVID positive cases in Rhode Island today. Two hundred eighteen people are hospitalized; 49 of those people are in the ICU, and 35 of those people are on ventilators. The governor noted there was a 40% drop in hospitalization rates since early May. She commented it was something she felt good about. The data the Ocean State has been receiving lately is from the effects of opening up the economy. Phase 2 is still scheduled to start on Monday, June 1.

DOH reported 21 new deaths today. One person was in their 50s, one was in their 60s, three in their 70s, nine in their 80s and seven people were in their 90s. “Each of these individuals are precious to the family they belong to,” said Dr. Alexander Scott. “And our deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of the people who have passed away.”

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Starting today, the governor announced, the American Red Cross was offering free grief and mental health counseling for those who lost loved ones in the COVID pandemic. It’s called the Virtual Family Assistance Center, and it works to connect families with mental healthcare for free. It also provides connections with legal assistance (such as estates) for those families who need it. For more information, Rhode Islanders can call 833- 492-0094, or go to redcross.org/vfac for detailed information.

The governor today outlined some of the regulations expected when fitness centers and gyms open next week. Some are familiar, such as social distancing and mask wearing. Raimondo today noted that specific masks for working out were available in addition to regular cloth-based coverings. If a person cannot wear a mask while working out, they will have to stay 14 feet away from other persons. Dr. Scott today said data available suggested that respiratory droplets that transmit COVID-19 travel further when working out. Tomorrow guidelines will be available for indoor dining, as well as barber shops and salons and more on rental assistance. Youth sports summer regulations are also among the announcements expected at tomorrow’s briefing.

“There will be youth sports this summer in Rhode Island,” said the governor.

Raimondo also announced she has extended DMV documents set to expire in June by 90 days. If you have a license or registration expiring in June, the state has now given you a grace period until September to get it renewed. The governor stressed most DMV functions could be done electronically online, and that the few DMV locations still open were appointment only.

The state has been meeting with the hospitality industry groups to determine workable regulations for indoor dining. When asked if the governor’s team had been talking to restaurants not associated with industry groups, the governor said that’s what the town halls were useful for. When asked if restaurants who chose to remain closed out of safety concerns would be at a distinct disadvantage competitively, the governor answered she “has to make rules for the whole state. We have very high unemployment, we’re in a unsustainable place economically. The public health advice says it’s safe to reopen restaurants.” The governor respects, as with houses of worship, establishments that choose to remain closed.

Religious services are expected to resume this weekend starting on May 30. Today, when asked, the governor outlined the differences between regulations about houses of worship and funeral services. She repeated that houses of worship were restricted to 25% capacity, but any service outside a house of worship must abide by the 15-person limit starting in Phase 2.

RI ACLU announced it was filing a federal lawsuit to stop RI DLT from cancelling UI payments do to alleged fraud. When asked for comment by Motif, Raimondo said she was unfamiliar with the case details, but stated “There’s fraud happening, and we have to protect ourselves.” The governor said any further questions should be directed at DLT or the Attorney General’s office.

Tomorrow and Monday’s press conference will take place at 1pm. There are no press briefings on the weekends. If you want to watch it, it’s available on local news, Facebook Live, and Capitol TV.

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