A Message from the Governor: Our cases are trending in the wrong direction, and we're not seeing the same patterns we saw in the spring. Back then, it was large gatherings and events causing most of our cases. Now, they're coming from small, intimate gatherings -- a couple friends over for dinner, or coffee in a break room at work. We get comfortable and take off our mask. We’ve been at this for seven months, and it’s easy to become passive with the rules. I find myself doing it sometimes. We’re living through one of the most stressful times in our lives. But we cannot let our guard down. It's on all of us, in our personal and professional lives, to make the active choice to wear a mask and keep our distance. It's the only way we’re going to keep people safe, keep our kids in school and continue reopening our economy.
Here some of the things we are doing statewide, and some actions that we can all take to be a part of the solution.
Wear masks more often. Anytime you're with people you don't live with -- wear a mask. Even if it's just with a small group of people in the comfort of your own home. Even if you're just going for a walk with a neighbor. We feel safe in these settings, and that's when the virus spreads. If we take off our masks, we could be spreading the virus without even knowing we have it, and our friends will then go into work and see their families, and it doesn't take long before it spirals. So let's make mask-wearing our default. Ask yourself, “Is there any reason I should NOT be wearing a mask right now?”
Holidays. Halloween is two weeks away. Trick-or-treating will still be allowed, but it’s going to look different this year. We’re asking that you go in small groups, stay six feet apart, and wear cloth masks the entire time. In addition, we’re asking everyone to do your trick-or-treating in the daylight. As it gets darker, it gets more challenging – and less safe – for kids to be spread out in the way they need to be. So this year, I’m asking families to start a bit earlier and be home before sunset. Do not, under any circumstance, have a Halloween party. Cases and hospitalizations are rising, and your decision to have a party will put more people in the hospital.
Plan for Thanksgiving. Please, keep it local this year and do not travel. We’ve talked all along about how our actions impact the case numbers we see a few weeks later. Well, three weeks after Halloween is Thanksgiving. And a month after that is Christmas. We were under a stay-at-home order for Easter, and Passover, and Ramadan. None of us wants to be back under a stay-at-home order for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But if we don’t recommit ourselves to following the rules today, then it’s not out of the question.
Lastly, we all need to be getting tested more often. Doing asymptomatic or “sentinel” testing is key to our overall testing strategy, and it is especially important now. It allows us to better understand where our problem areas are and take a more targeted, precise approach to our response. And it helps you better protect your friends and family when you may not even know you’ve been exposed.
The picture above lists all of the different groups that are the current focus of our asymptomatic testing program. Anyone who falls into these categories, please go to portal.ri.gov and sign up for a free test. Over the next week, I want Rhode Island to run 4,000 asymptomatic tests.