PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s capital city is imposing a mask mandate for anyone entering municipal buildings, starting Tuesday, and will require most city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1 or undergo weekly testing.
Mayor Jorge Elorza’s office announced the guidance Monday as the delta variant drives up cases in the state.
“In light of the delta variant and increased spread of COVID-19 in Providence, today we are announcing a measured approach that prioritizes the health and safety of our residents and employees,” Elorza said in a statement. “It is important now more than ever that everyone wear their masks, watch their distance and sign up to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.”
Employees of the Providence school system won’t fall under the new guidelines, which will affect about 1,000 other city workers, officials said.
The new restrictions come as Rhode Island’s positivity rate climbs despite generally robust vaccination rates.
State-run testing sites reopen
Rhode Island is reopening two state-run COVID-19 testing sites Monday in response to increased demand.
The testing sites at the Smithfield Veterans of Foreign Wars post and the Barrington Shopping Center will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends, the state Department of Health announced.
Like most state-run testing sites, appointments are required.
The state plans to expand its capacity to start offering more than 5,000 appointments per day, which would be in addition to testing being done at pharmacies and other private sites, WPRI-TV reported.
“Whether or not you’re fully vaccinated, get tested right away if you get symptoms of COVID-19, even if you think it’s just a cold or allergies,” the health department said.
As the delta variant spreads, the state’s daily positivity rate has climbed to 3.4% as of Friday, according to the department.
In addition, state residents who are moderately to severely immunocompromised are now eligible for third doses, available at the Sockanosset Crossroads vaccination site in Cranston and at hospital vaccination sites.
There are approximately 35,000 people in Rhode Island who are considered moderately to severely immunocompromised, the department said.
Alcohol to go
Gov. Daniel McKee has signed into law a bill designed to help restaurants stay in business by allowing the continued sales of alcoholic beverages with takeout orders.
The Democratic governor held a ceremonial signing Monday at Chaska, an Indian restaurant in Cranston.
“This simple extension of takeout drinks will help them stay afloat, bring in a little more revenue, and keep paying their employees and supporting our economy,” state Sen. Hanna Gallo, D-Cranston, said in a statement.
McKee also signed a second piece of legislation that prevents third-party delivery services from listing a business without that business’ consent.
“This law will ensure that the public and our small businesses know exactly who they are doing business with and it will bring transparency and fairness to the rapidly emerging technologies in our lives,” said state Rep. Robert Craven, D-North Kingstown.