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Rhode Island to lift most COVID-19 business restrictions before Memorial Day

Rhode Island to lift most COVID-19 business restrictions before Memorial Day
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Rhode Island is planning to start lifting coronavirus restrictions on businesses ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Gov. Daniel McKee (D) said in a news conference Thursday that starting May 7, masks will not be required outdoors.

Restaurants, gyms and houses of worship will be allowed to open at 80 percent capacity indoors with 3-foot distancing. There will be no capacity limits on outdoor dining.

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On May 28, all capacity limits for indoor dining, gyms, houses of worship and retail stores will be lifted, while keeping in place the 3-foot spacing requirement. The state also will lift capacity limits on venues of assembly and social gatherings.

McKee said he made the decision based on the state’s rate of vaccination. More than 500,000 residents have received at least one dose, and one-third of the state is fully vaccinated, he said.

The state is ranked third in the nation on first doses, and fifth on second doses. More than 90 percent of residents age 65-74 have been vaccinated, the governor said, and more than 80 percent of those 75 or older.

“We’re not gonna put the mission accomplished sign up yet, but we’re getting close,” McKee said.

McKee’s move comes as more states move to lift COVID-19 restrictions on businesses.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced Monday that all restrictions on businesses would be lifted May 19, citing low infection rates and high rates of vaccination. However, Lamont said the state’s mask mandate will remain in effect.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) hinted at lifting the state’s COVID-19 restrictions in a press conference Wednesday, but said he wouldn’t do so right now.

“I expect we'll have some stuff to say before the end of April,” Baker said. “But at this point in time ... people need to continue to follow the rules and the guidance."