Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo on Monday announced a series of new steps in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including ending for two weeks the on-premise consumption of food and drinks, effective Tuesday, at bars, restaurants and coffee shops.

Takeout and delivery service can still take place, the governor said. She said she will monitor the situation and that stronger precautions could be put in place in two weeks.

“This moment right now is a critical moment to give Rhode Island a fighting chance to contain this as much as possible,” Raimondo said, “and ensure that we don’t have that spike in cases all at once which overwhelms our society and our healthcare system.”

The governor said she has been in communication with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who ordered similar steps Sunday.

While Raimondo said she recognizes the hardship caused for food venues on the cusp of St. Patrick’s Day, she called it vital for Rhode Islanders to limit their exposure by avoiding non-essential gatherings of 25 or more people.

“We are directing all Rhode Islanders to avoid non-essential crowds,” Raimondo said, adding that the state will enforce her directive. “Eating out is not essential. Getting your hair done is not essential. It’s important, but it’s not essential. Hanging out with your friends is not essential.”

Raimondo acknowledged groups of more than 25 people can be found at supermarkets. She called on people to avoid large groups at markets to the extent possible.

In related news, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is ordering Providence Place closed as of Tuesday until further notice. Raimondo encouraged mayors of other communities to order malls closed.

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Health Department, said the state, out of a sense of caution, is operating on a belief that community spread is taking place in Rhode Island.

State officials reported one additional positive case of coronavirus, a woman in her 40s – bringing to 21 the number of positive cases in Rhode Island.

According to the state, test are pending for 149 people, 308 people have had negative test results, and more than 2,000 people have been instructed to self-quarantine.

In related news, Raimondo said unemployment and temporary disability claims are skyrocketing in Rhode Island due to the virus.

As a result, she said, the state is submitting to the federal Small Business Administration an application for an economic injury disaster declaration. The governor said that would make the state eligible for low-interest loans for fixed operating costs for small businesses.

If Rhode Islanders need to make an unemployment claim, Raimondo said, they should go online at the state Department of Labor and Training web site.  

During a second briefing, Monday afternoon, the governor outlined other steps, including the closing of the Statehouse to visitors, the closing of satellite DMV offices, and the availability of limited services at the central DMV office in Cranston.

Related developments:

-- Raimondo said she will sign an executive order suspending the state Open Meetings Act. She said if municipal boards and agencies can delay meetings for 30 days, they should. If not, the governor said, the public must be able to listen to or view the meetings via telephone or video conference.

-- The state is closing offices of the Department of Human Services and HealthSourceRI to visitors. Business can be done online, the governor said.

-- Raimondo advised Rhode Islanders to remain in Rhode Island. She said Boston is "a hot spot" for coronavirus."

-- Alexander-Scott said the Rhode Island Blood Center has faced a striking decline in donations. She urged Rhode Islanders to visit the blood bank's web site to make an appointment to donate.

-- Raimondo repeated her morning criticism of what she called an unprepared response by the federal government. She said the feds should be doing more to help states like Rhode Island with protective equipment and swabs.

-- The governor again expressed empathy with bar owners who are taking a hit on business during the St. Patrick's Day holiday. She said the state will try to do something to make it up to them.