Council enacts emergency ordinance

Wed, 03/18/2020 - 11:45am

Last night the Town Council unanimously passed an Emergency Ordinance that has set guidelines for travelers coming to the island from the mainland, discourages non-residents from coming to Block island, limits the number of people that can gather together, essentially shuts down Town Hall except for a minimal amount of personnel, and cancels all but the most essential town meetings.

The ordinance will be in full force until April 15, 2020.

The council fine-tuned the ordinance at a sometimes tense emergency meeting on March 17, 2020.

Perhaps the primary point of contention was who should be required to self-quarantine if they have traveled from the mainland to Block island. The council at first discussed instituting a radius on the mainland. If travelers arrived from within that area they would need to self-quarantine. 

In order to get some guidance on the matter, Councilor Martha Ball made a call to Dr. Mark Clark who said that idea of implementing a radius “does not solve your problem. If someone is on the island [with the virus], you’ve broken the seal.” Dr. Clark has strongly recommended that everyone on Block Island practice social distancing.

Concerned that the town could not yet prohibit travel to the island, the council eventually decided on language that states “Any person coming to Block Island who has traveled outside of the continental United States within the last fourteen days must immediately self-quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival on Block Island. Any person traveling to Block Island must practice heightened awareness and social distancing.”

Read the full ordinance here:


March 17, 2020

WHEREAS, on January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern;

WHEREAS, on January 31, 2020, the Rhode Island Department of Health established an Incident Command System response to COVID-19;

WHEREAS, on January 31, 2020, the United States Health and Human Services Secretary declared a public health emergency for the entire United States to aid the nation's healthcare community in responding to COVID-19;

WHEREAS, Governor Gina M. Raimondo has issued the following Executive Orders:

Executive Order 20-02 declaring a disaster emergency due to the outbreak of COVID- 19 dated March 9, 2020;

Executive Order 20-03 containing a supplemental emergency declaration dated March 13, 2020;

Executive Order 20-04 containing a second supplemental emergency declaration regarding restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and public gatherings dated March 16, 2020; and

Executive Order 20-05 containing a third supplemental emergency declaration regarding public meetings and public records requests dated March 16, 2020.

WHEREAS, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 to be a Pandemic;

WHEREAS, on March 11, 2020, the President of the United States addressed the nation about the threat posed by the outbreak of COVID-19 and announced a restriction on international air travel from certain European nations for a period of thirty days starting on March 12, 2020;

WHEREAS, on March 11, 2020, the United States State Department issued an extraordinary global health advisory;

WHEREAS, as of March 15, 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19 had spread to every continent except Antarctica and infected more than 152,000 people, causing approximately 6,000 deaths;

WHEREAS, the number of countries that are experiencing community transmission of COVID- 19 continues to grow;

WHEREAS, community transmission in the United States has occurred in many states and is an immediate public health threat to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions;

WHEREAS, cases of COVID-19 have been documented in the State of Rhode Island;

WHEREAS, the State of Rhode Island and various public health officials have reached out to the Town of New Shoreham to take steps to contain the spread of COVID-19;

WHEREAS, the Town of New Shoreham is required to enforce the Governor's Executive Orders to limit the spread of COVID-19;

WHEREAS, the Town has limited medical resources and a limited supply of medical equipment, medical personnel, personal protective devices and medicines to treat potential COVID-19 cases; and

WHEREAS, the terms and conditions of this ordinance are adopted pursuant to: the Governor's Executive Orders; Title 23 Chapter 8 of the Rhode Island General Laws; Title 30 Chapter 15 of the Rhode Island General Laws; and the New Shoreham Home Rule Charter Sections 409B and 804.

NOW, THEREFORE, the Town Council of the Town of New Shoreham does hereby adopt the following emergency ordinance for purposes of protecting the public health, safety and/or general welfare of the Town which are imminently imperiled by COVID-19:

  1. A state of emergency is hereby immediately declared in the Town of New Shoreham due to the risks to the public health and safety posed by COVID-19. The remainder of this ordinance is effective as of 12:01 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 and shall continue in full force and effect until midnight on April 15, 2020. The effective period may be amended as circumstances warrant.
  1. All Town offices and facilities except for public safety offices shall close and all non- essential Town employees shall be put on paid administrative leave until further notice. The determination as to which employees are essential shall be at the discretion of the Town Manager and the Town Manager may call back any employee in the event of an urgent matter requiring immediate attention.
  2. All restaurants, bars and other establishments that offer food and/or beverages to the public shall not permit on-premises consumption of food or beverages, and may offer only take-out or delivery service as to food and non-alcoholic beverages in accordance with the social distancing protocols of the Rhode Island Department of Health.
  3. All gatherings of people (other than family members) in excess of ten (10) or more on Block Island are prohibited. Gatherings shall include, without limitation, community, civic, public, leisure or faith-based events, sporting events, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, festivals and any other similar activity on the island which brings together more than ten (10) people.
  4. All non-essential Town meetings are cancelled including, without limitation, Town Council meetings, Town financial meetings and all meetings of any Town department, agency, quasi-municipal agency, board and commission.
  5. All Town departments, agencies, quasi-municipal agencies, boards and commissions are instructed to fully cooperate with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency and with the New Shoreham Emergency Management Agency in all matters regarding this ordinance.
  6. All of the following licenses and permits are suspended during the effective period of this emergency ordinance: entertainment licenses; liquor licenses except for Class A; special event permits; and outdoor entertainment licenses.
  7. Travel to Block Island is discouraged for any non-resident. Full-time residents are encouraged to restrict travel off island for essential purposes only such as medical care, care of a family member, and obtaining food and other provisions.
  8. Any person coming to Block Island who has traveled outside of the continental United States within the last fourteen days must immediately self-quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival on Block Island. Any person traveling to Block Island must practice heightened awareness and social distancing.
  1. Any person who may have come in close contact with a person who has COVID-19 must immediately self-quarantine for fourteen days before coming to Block Island.
  2. Any person who is under self-quarantine direction who wants to go to the Block Island Medical Center must first contact the medical center for instructions as to how to this directive does not apply to persons requiring emergency medical care or assistance.
  3. All persons on Block Island shall fully comply with all federal, state and local emergency directives and orders as shall be from time to time amended.
  4. The New Shoreham Police Department is instructed to enforce the provisions of this emergency ordinance.