Council to everyone here or who travels here: Stay home

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 8:15am

UPDATE: (Monday, March 23): The Town Council amended its emergency ordinance at a meeting this morning that will recommend island residents to shelter in place for 14 days, impact building permits, housing rentals, travel, and other items.

Through these provisions the council is urging that all non-essential travel to the island cease.

The council will vote on the updated emergency ordinance at a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight, March 23. The Block Island Times will live stream the vote, and will published the new emergency ordinance in its entirety on its homepage and on social media accounts.

The council is urging all residents and those individuals who may be planning to come to Block Island to read the ordinance and understand its provisions.

Dr. Mark Clark, director of the Block Island Medical Center, is also recommending these measures to keep the COVID-19 virus from spreading to Block Island. He noted that there are confirmed cases of the virus in Washington County. Dr. Clark and the members of the council reiterated that the island has minimal medical resources — three exam rooms and one trauma center — and anyone who is diagnosed with the virus will be taken off island for treatment.

From March 22:

The Block Island Town Council plans to adopt new travel and short-term stay restrictions that will impact residents already here and those that are expected to travel here at a meeting it has scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, March 23. That meeting will take place by teleconference. (The Block Island Times will live stream this meeting on its Facebook page starting at 9 a.m.)

The council spent the majority of Sunday afternoon updating its emergency ordinance that it passed less than a week ago. The members acknowledged that the COVID-19 situation had changed dramatically enough that the restrictions it had put in place just six days ago were not enough in terms of attempting to keep the virus from spreading to the island. Dr. Mark Clark reported that there were nine cases in Washington County at the the of the meeting.

The council's aim is “limiting, restricting, stopping travel” to the island, according to the words of Councilor Sven Risom, but the measures also put restrictions on travel and interactions on the island by those who are here now.

The council added to its emergency ordinance language that 1) urged visitors and non-fulltime residents to return to their primary residence on the mainland and shelter in place there; 2) seasonal residents who come to the island are asked to shelter in place for 14 days; 3) fulltime residents who have returned or will return to the island are being asked to shelter in place as much as they possibly can; 4) all full-time island residents who live and work here year-round were strongly encouraged to stay at home for the next 14 days, and to send only one family member at a time to visits to the Block Island Grocery or the Post Office.

The council cancelled all transportation licenses, including those for taxis, mopeds, bikes, and car rentals until April 15, 2020.

The council is also discouraging any workers who commute to the island on a daily basis, regardless of how they arrive, whether it is by ferry or airplane.

The measures were, in a nutshell, “asking people to stay home,” said interim Town Manager Jim Kern.

The council and Kern repeated what has become a mantra in the past week: the island has limited resources in terms of food and medical care.

The council also added language that those restaurants now open and offering takeout can also sell beer and wine to be consumed with the meal, limiting the takeout to two bottles of wine and 144 ounces of beer.

This is a developing story. Please see for updates.