SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The calendar and the thermometer say summer is here, but it’s been a less than happy start to the season at Brickley’s Ice Cream.
The local business with shops in Wakefield and Narragansett says it’s fielded verbal abuse from some customers who aren’t happy with the shop’s policies to deal with COVID-19.
The owner, Steve Brophy, said online that it’s not a majority of customers, but “some disgruntled people” that have caused angst for the staff.
“The larger majority of our customers are understanding of the how and why we are doing business the way we are right now ... a reduced menu, fewer flavors etc. in order to keep things moving and to help avoid congregating,” Brophy wrote.
Both Brickley’s locations have had their share of customers who refuse to wear masks, or that express anger at the reduced menu, he said.
“Some of these customers are being verbally abusive to our young staff,” Brophy wrote. “That is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I cannot ask our high school and college staff to police the behavior of some who choose to ignore our rules.”
Another customer who could not get exactly what he wanted told a staff member, “You are babies, are you going to let (Gov.) Gina (Raimondo) hold your hand all summer,” and “I hope your go out of (expletive) business,” according to the owner.
He says he was considering closing the operation down – in effect putting himself and the staff out of business rather than face more abuse.
“This is incredibly frustrating, stressful and exhausting for all of us,” he wrote. “There is a point where it is not worth doing and as July approaches I don’t see this getting better. Could we pull the plug on all of this .... at this point my answer is yes. It would be the last option but it is an option. I don’t feel that anyone should have to tolerate this disrespectful, abusive behavior. Our staff is made up of mostly young, high school and college students. They don’t deserve to be treated like this.”
An outpouring of support for Brickley’s soon followed the online posting about the shop’s troubles, and ownership is grateful.
“I truly want to thank the majority or our customers who have shown patience and understanding through all of this,” Brophy wrote. “We appreciate you.”
Word of the Brickley’s incidents came on the same day that Raimondo said that although people flocked to state parks and beaches for the weekend, more should be wearing masks and observe social distancing.
“Throughout the weekend, DEM rangers at the parks and beaches were out asking large groups to spread out and keep 6 feet of distance – and some folks were frustrated by that ask,” Raimondo said.
The governor emphasized that the state has not yet moved into phase three of reopening.
“If folks go out now and start acting like we’re in Phase 3 already, we’re going to jeopardize our progress,” she said.
The state estimates that as many as 25,000 people went to a state beach Saturday, and 15,000 on Sunday.
“One area where we need to continue to do better is mask wearing,” said Raimondo. “It’s true that you don’t need to wear a mask if you’re able to continuously maintain 6 feet of social distance. But, for example, if you’re at the beach and you leave your spot to go to the pavilion, you should be wearing a mask. Chances are you’re going to come within 6 feet of someone else outside of your immediate group — and when that happens, you should have a mask on.”
A new analysis by a University of Rhode Island professor found that Rhode Island’s stay-at-home order, in combination with the state of emergency declaration, increased news flow and other safety precautions were effective in keeping a large number of Rhode Islanders home during the height of the pandemic locally.
Michael DiNardi, assistant professor of economics, analyzed aggregated anonymous mobile device GPS location data from SafeGraph, Inc., and Google Community Mobility Reports to measure how much time Rhode Islanders were spending at home.
“There were a lot of researchers looking at how stay-at-home policies and other measures across the country were working to keep people at home and as a measure of social distancing,” said DiNardi, who wrote the analysis as part of the university’s Social Science Institute for Research, Policy, and Education’s spotlight on COVID-19. “I wanted to look at this more specifically in the context of Rhode Island given that we were one of the first states to lock down in a major way.”
Following the state of emergency, there was a sharp but steady increase – up to nearly 40 percent of mobile devices remaining at home on a given day between March 9 and March 27. After the stay at home order on March 28, DiNardi found a small jump to approximately 45 percent, followed by a leveling off.
“What this shows is that following the state of emergency declaration, people were taking this pandemic seriously and – for those who could – they started to make the decision to stay home. Likewise, businesses were also beginning to shut down or allowing people to work from home,” DiNardi said. “And this was happening prior to the stay-at-home order on March 28.”
Since May 7, DiNardi says the percentage of people staying at home has dropped off some but as of mid-June was still hovering around 40 percent according to the data – though it is expected for that to begin to trend down slightly.
“I was concerned we might see a big jump following the lifting of the stay-at-home order,” DiNardi said. “Even with the reopening and recent protests, it appears that people got the message and continue to practice distancing.”
DiNardi noted the limitations of the data and cautioned that the information gathered through mobile devices is not perfect.