On Monday, April 27, 2020, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced in her daily press conference an illustrated and detailed set of steps that need to be taken in order for our state to open. In outlining these steps, Raimondo and her team named each of the phases in nautical language - “weathering the storm,” “testing the water,” “navigating our way” - in order to appeal to Rhode Island being the ocean state. Over the past weeks and months, the state of Rhode Island has stored up a bastion of health supplies, ramped up their testing abilities, and prepared their hospital system in order to “set sail” into reopening Rhode Island. The state is following a procedure where scientific data and statistics are key in understanding the novel coronavirus; Raimondo and her team warn Rhode Islanders they need to be prepared to adapt to evolving and unprecedented circumstances, as scientific data regarding COVID-19 provides unique results each day.
The Governor does not plan to extend the stay-at-home order past Friday, May 8, 2020. The following day, she plans to begin the first phase we must embark in leading up to the grand reopening of our economy and our state. Beginning on May 9, social gatherings will be increased, from no more than five people to no more than 10 people. Older adults (65+) can go to work and can go out for food and medicine, but those with underlying health conditions are encouraged to stay home and have those items delivered to them. Any worker that can perform their job from home should remain to work from home. Social distancing rules (staying six feet apart), wearing masks, and increased hygienic exercises should remain in your daily routine in not only phase one, but for phases one through three.
In order for the Governor to ensure it is safe enough for our state to transition from one phase to another, we must experience one or two different improvements in the state of Rhode Island. We must see a 14 day decline in the number of positive cases of COVID-19, or we must see a 14 day decline or stabilizing hospitalizations. Throughout the entire process, the state will continue to utilize a data-driven approach to assess trends and determine if restrictions need to be reinstated. Between different phases, the state must also have outlines from businesses that detail how they will safely operate; testing all symptomatic people between 2-3 days and running constant tests of random sampling; plus ensuring all communities in the state have access to testing and health supplies. Once we can satisfy all of those needs, we can move forward into beginning another phase.
The second phase of reopening the state will allow more restaurants and businesses to reopen - restrictions will be held back slightly during this phase. Under strict public health guidelines, childcare centers will begin to reopen, as well as hair and nail salons across the state. Social gatherings in this phase will rise to no more than 15 people, and more recreational centers can plan on reopening, such as parks and beaches. Rhode Island residents 65 and older remain encouraged to stay home if they suffer from any underlying health conditions; mask wearing and other social distancing rules remain to be in place. If we notice even more of a decline in positive cases or hospitalizations, we can move on to phase three.
The third phase into reopening the state, named “picking up speed,” sees a drastic uptick in the amount of people that can be involved in a social gathering - rising from 15 to 50 people. In this phase we could look forward to the reopening of schools, plus restaurants and other businesses will lift the tightest of their restrictions. While working from home remains encouraged, more people will be allowed to come back to the workplace during this phase. Social distancing regulations remain essential to follow, and will benefit us largely once we embark beyond this phase. Past the trilogy of phases in reopening our state, we can look back from this experience and learn from it, as we’ve been challenging ourselves to live alternatively to how we wish to live for an arduous time period in history. Rhode Island, and its citizens, will end up much stronger because of the measures they’ve had to take while battling a deadly virus. As all storms eventually die out, this one will too if we all cooperate with our state government.