Governor Raimondo Takes the Fight Against COVID-19 Outside with New Initiative - Rhode Island Commerce

Governor Raimondo earlier this week announced the “Take It Outside” initiative, a statewide effort designed to encourage and increase outdoor activities for all Rhode Islanders. The move comes in part due to national health experts’ findings that the transmission rate of COVID-19 is nearly 20 times higher indoors than outdoors.

The initiative creates more opportunities to work and play outside through a collaborative partnership between state agencies and stakeholders including the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Department of Health, Department of Administration, Division of Information Technology, Department of Business Regulation, Rhode Island Commerce, municipalities and chambers of commerce, the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, and several others.  

Efforts to help get the word out include a new public service announcement from Director Nicole Alexander-Scott. These PSAs (an example of which can be heard here) will air on local radio stations over the next four weeks. Additionally, those who work and play outside are encouraged to share photos on social media with the hashtag #CrushCovidRI. Images and videos will be shared across state’s social channels to help raise awareness of the campaign.

To learn more about the initiative, please visit www.takeitoutsideri.com.

“For months, we’ve had to find innovative ways to resume everyday activities while slowing the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “We know that being outside reduces the risk of transmission of this virus and are asking Rhode Islanders to get creative and Take it Outside whenever possible. I’m grateful for the support of municipal and business leaders in this effort.”

“In order to fight COVID – and in order to keep our economy open — let’s take it outside,” said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor. “Rhode Island is blessed with wonderful outdoor locations that can serve as splendid settings for recreation, dining, exercise, office work and more. Please consult the info on our website, support our local businesses – and find new ways to take your meals, meetings, workouts, and work sessions outside.”

State Land Availability:

The DEM has made spaces available for outdoor recreation and fitness classes as well as for outdoor meetings, workshops, classes, and business functions. DEM is working on a streamlined process to expedite requests to use these select parks, with details on how to make reservations available at: www.riparks.com/takeitoutside. Depending on the desired location, size, and complexity of your planned activity, RI State Parks may charge a reservation fee or impose other requirements.

Additionally, Commerce is exploring how to provide free WiFi for public use at some state park locations. More information will be coming soon.

In Providence, the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission will, over the coming weeks, transform the land by the Pedestrian bridge into an outdoor workspace, equipped with free public furniture and WiFi.

Municipal Participation:

Across the state, Rhode Island’s cities and towns are increasingly making public spaces available for increased use, and in some instances closed down streets for public engagement. For example:

  • In East Greenwich, the town will close portions of Main Street weekly each Sunday afternoons beginning on September 7 to provide more outdoor space for businesses and encourage more activity.
  • Providence has planned extensive opportunities for outdoor space including street closures, streamlined sidewalk and outdoor permits, and other activities. Businesses interested in expanding their outdoor opportunities should visit com. Providence has waived the costs associated with establishments applying for expansion of dining on site. Through Providence Great Streets released in January, the City has also committed to permanent installation of neighborhood greenways on select streets that will more effectively reduce speeding and improve safety allowing pedestrians to enjoy the outdoors.
  • Jamestown has closed a parking lot to allow restaurants to allow three restaurants to offer outdoor dining. The town is committed to continuing to explore other options to enable the use of outdoor space.
  • Central Falls is exploring how to provide additional space for businesses by allowing the use of parking spaces in front of their locations to expand outdoors.
  • Warren has instituted a “one stop shop” for expedited permitting for outdoor dining. The Town Council has empowered staff to prioritize small business assistance and has delegated authority to a staff review team including Planning, Building, Police and Fire that in most cases will grant approval within 24 hours.
  • In Bristol, the town has created a temporary outdoor dining permit application and also encourages health/fitness businesses to work with the local Parks & Recreation Department to hold classes in the town’s various parks.
  • The Town of West Greenwich is holding their town council, planning board, zoning board, and conservation commission meetings outside. All meetings are outdoor and physically distanced.
  • In Newport, the Newport Community School will be providing outdoor “pop up” support tents around the City of Newport to offer in-person support (socially distanced and masked) to children and families, including technology assistance or troubleshooting for those students who opted for distance learning, and the provision of basic needs such as food, clothing or hygiene supplies for those who are in need of assistance.
  • The Town of Richmond is partnering with a local yoga instructor to offer yoga on the Town Hall lawn every Wednesday morning.
  • Portsmouth has issued an Executive Order providing a simplified application process to allow all food and drink establishments for expansion of serve to outdoor areas.
  • Westerly, in partnership with the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, will be home to many outdoor and physically distanced events.

Business Community Participation:

CIC and District Hall/Venture Café Providence are converting the plaza at Wexford’s 225 Dyer St. location into an outdoor workspace. This area will be set up with outdoor furniture and offers internet connectivity, making it the perfect outdoor “public lounge” space to have a meeting or get some work done! Plans are also underway for increased outdoor programming.

Sail Newport has added and extended a wide variety of public sailing programs for adults and youth.

At AAA, several of the pre-processing and pre-registration activities are being conducted outside.

Citizens Bank offices are using their outdoor spaces to hold meetings outside when possible.

What They Are Saying:

 

  • “As COVID- 19 shut down so many businesses and activities in RI, we want to remind everyone that Rhode Island farmers never stopped farming.” said Heidi Quinn, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Farm Bureau.  “From apple picking to pumpkin picking, corn mazes to hayrides, flowers to farm stands, our state’s farms offer Rhode Islanders many opportunities to ‘Take It Outside’ and enjoy local foods and products in the fresh air.”
  • “We’re proud to support Governor Raimondo in her efforts to help more people ‘Take It Outside’ to enjoy the benefits of time outdoors,” said Becky Smith, Northeast Regional Director at REI. “As proud members of the community for 13 years, REI has been committed to getting Rhode Islanders outdoors. We believe a life outdoors is a life well lived and we’re supportive of all efforts that encourage responsible outdoor recreation as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
  • “Rhode Island needs to be creative and flexible in our approach to re-strengthening and repositioning our economy and we see the Take It Outside Initiative, in doing just that,” said Andy Nota, East Greenwich Town Manager. “East Greenwich is excited to be part of the “Take It Outside” Initiative – in providing our local businesses with much needed support and expanded opportunities.”
  • “The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on all Rhode Islanders, and I applaud Governor Raimondo for encouraging everyone to “Take It Outside” and visit our farms safely this year,” said Jan Eckhart of Sweet Berry Farms. We have family friendly fun like apple and pumpkin picking and our own Christmas Tree farm. We are following all safety protocols and look forward to seeing Rhode Islanders “Take It Outside” at our farm!
  • “Rhode Islanders look to Audubon for outdoor exercise, to lose themselves in nature for a little while, and safely distance from others in our free and accessible trails,” said Lawrence J. F. Taft, Executive Director of the Audubon Society of RI . “Our Nature Center and Aquarium, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is open, offering small-group outdoor programs with safety in mind. We also offer virtual programs, activities, crafts, and story times that encourage a love of nature. We are pleased to join the state in helping Rhode Islanders ‘Take It Outside’.”
  • “Linden Place has always been a ‘living room’ for cultural groups, educational organizations and non-profits throughout Rhode Island,” said Susan Battle, Executive Director, Linden Place Museum. “Providing use of our historic estate is one small way that we can give back to the Rhode Island community that supported Linden Place when we first became a museum in 1989, especially during this difficult time. We are excited at the prospect of bringing new audiences to our historic estate while supporting this important initiative. Let’s Take it Outside, RI!”
  • “We’re seeing the benefits of more families taking advantage of our public sailing opportunities and getting out on the water together for healthy outdoor recreation,” said Brad Read, Executive Director of Sail Newport. “Also, Sail Newport has extended youth programs for students aged seven and older to take advantage of our harbor classroom this fall. Not only is sailing fun and rewarding, being on the water inspires adventure and a deep appreciation and respect for marine life and our greatest natural resource of Narragansett Bay.”
  • “Outdoor walking meetings not only reduce the risk of COVID, but are a great self-care strategy to manage stress and anxiety,” said Rupert Friday of the Rhode Island Land Trust Council. “Take it outside! Land Trusts around the state have trails in beautiful places where you can take colleagues for a walking meeting.”

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