Memorial Day weekend safety tips, closed shellfishing areas

This could be the biggest Memorial Day weekend for travel in close to 20 years say those who keep track of this sort of thing. Knowing that, many will be staying close to home, visiting each other, going to outdoor events, etc.

Ahead of Memorial Day, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is issuing a reminder about the important steps people should take to stay healthy and safe this weekend and this summer.

Tips for a Healthy Memorial Day Weekend and For Being Healthy Outdoors

Travel responsibly

Never drink and drive. Additionally, never drive after using other substances that impair your ability to drive safely. Substances that impair your ability to drive safely include cannabis, illegal drugs, many types of prescription medicines, and some over-the-counter medicines.

If you have been drinking alcohol and/or using drugs, get a ride home with a driver who has not been drinking or using drugs, use a rideshare service, or call a taxi.

Roughly 30% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States involve an alcohol-impaired driver.

Food safety

Proper handling, preparation, cooking, and storing are key to keeping food safe and preventing food-borne illness year-round. However, these precautions are essential as the weather gets warmer, and people start grilling outside.

When handling and grilling raw meat, chicken and other poultry, and seafood, people should:

  • Separate the raw food to be grilled from other food. 
  • Refrigerate before grilling or cooking.
  • Never thaw or marinate on the counter. 
  • Wash your hands before and after handling.
  • Ensure its juices do not touch other food, utensils, and surfaces.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure it is cooked to a safe internal temperature.

Additional food safety tips include:

  • Wash work surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water before and after cooking. 
  • If you are grilling, use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean the grill surface before cooking. If you use a wire bristle brush, thoroughly inspect the grill’s surface for loose bristles before cooking. Wire bristles can become loose and get stuck in food. 
  • Divide leftovers into small portions and place them in covered, shallow containers. Put them in the freezer or refrigerator within two hours of cooking (within one hour if above 90°F outside).

Sun safety and beaches

  • Rhode Islanders are also reminded to protect themselves from the sun’s rays and enjoy the beach safely this summer. RIDOH will monitor beach water quality for bacteria this year from May 28 to Labor Day.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 whenever spending time outdoors, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Reapply every two hours—more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming.
  • Keep newborn babies and infants up to age 6 months out of direct sunlight. For children older than age 6 months, consult the over-the-counter Drug Facts label on sunscreens before applying. Many parents prefer using SPF 50+ broad-spectrum sunscreen for children.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection to keep your eyes from harm. 
  • Seek shade where possible, consider wearing UPF sun-protective clothing, and wear a hat with a brim that shades the face and ears, especially if spending an extended amount of time outdoors. 
  • After Memorial Day, look at the latest beach closures and advisories before going to the beach. For more information on beach closures, visit or call 401-222-2751. 
  • Be aware and prepare for hot temperatures.

Prevent tick bites

May is Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Month. As Rhode Islanders gather for outdoor gatherings and activities, it is important take three steps to prevent tick bites, which can lead to tick-borne diseases: Repel, Check, Remove.

Repel – keep ticks off you, your children, and pets by:

  • Avoiding wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaves. If you are going to be in a wooded area, walk in the center of the trail to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaves at the edges of the trail. You can also spray your clothes with permethrin to keep ticks away. Make sure to not spray this on your skin. 
  • Wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts when outside. 
  • Tucking your pants into your socks so ticks do not crawl under your clothes. 
  • Wearing light-colored clothing so you can see ticks more easily.

Check – check yourself, your children, and pets, for ticks by:

  • Taking a shower as soon as you come inside if you have been in grassy or wooded areas. 
  • Doing a full-body tick check using a mirror; parents should check their kids for ticks and pay special attention to the area in and around the ears, in the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and in their hair. 
  • Checking your pets for ticks as well because they can bring ticks into the home.

Remove – remove ticks from your body, as well as from children and pets, if you find them.

  • Use a set of tweezers to remove the tick. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up. 
  • If you don’t have tweezers, use your fingers with a tissue or rubber gloves.

Besides Lyme Disease, which is the most common tickborne disease in Rhode Island, other tick-borne illnesses in Rhode Island are anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. Powassan, a rare disease that causes brain inflammation and serious illness has also been detected in Rhode Island in recent years.

In addition, Alpha-gal Syndrome (AGS), which can be transmitted through the saliva of the Lone Star tick when it bites humans, is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic condition. AGS is also called alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy. AGS is not caused by an infection. AGS symptoms occur after people eat red meat or are exposed to other products containing alpha-gal. 

For more information about tick bite prevention, see


Shellfish Area Closures

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that seasonal shellfish area closures will take effect at sunrise on Saturday, May 25, and will remain in place until Tuesday, October 15. Consistent with federal requirements, DEM announces changes in shellfish harvest area closures in local waters every year at this time due to potential water quality impacts associated with marinas and mooring fields. The seasonal closure areas are within:

  • Bristol Harbor
  • Dutch Harbor Area, Jamestown
  • Fishing Cove, Wickford Harbor
  • Great Salt Pond and Trims Pond, Block Island
  • Potter Cove, Prudence Island
  • Sakonnet Harbor, Little Compton

In addition, small seasonal marina closures in the southern coastal ponds, Fort Wetherill, and the Kickemuit River in Warren will also go into effect on May 25.

No changes in shellfish classification

Shellfish harvest area water quality is also evaluated in May of each year. Bacteria data collected during the prior year is reviewed for compliance with national public health water quality standards. 2023 was a wet year with 57.7 inches of rain falling at TF Green Airport. This compares to a long-term average annual rainfall total of 49 inches of rain. Wet weather can convey potentially harmful bacteria from the watershed to shellfish growing waters. Despite the wet weather in 2023, bacteria water quality remained good, and all approved and conditionally approved Rhode Island shellfish areas met national FDA standards for safe shellfish harvest. Accordingly, there are no downgrades in RI shellfish growing areas in the May 2024 evaluation. 

“From the opening of the Providence River to quahogging for the first time in 75 years in 2021, to the opening of new shellfishing grounds in Greenwich Bay in 2022, to the Mount Hope Bay reopening in 2023, the trend toward better water quality in Narragansett Bay is clear,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “The improvements propelling this progress — replacing and phasing out outmoded cesspools that pollute groundwater, upgrading wastewater treatment facilities, and improving collection and treatment of stormwater — have not come cheaply, but they’ve been worth every penny because the bay is cleaner and healthier than it’s been in generations.”

Rhode Island shellfish are much sought-after seafood because of a long history of delivering a high-quality product. This is achieved by diligent monitoring of shellfish harvesting waters, protecting public health with a high level of oversight when conditions indicate a change in water quality either from natural sources such as algae blooms or by the quick response to emergency conditions. DEM, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), and the RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), along with industry partners, collaborate to ensure that shellfish grown and harvested from Rhode Island waters continues to be a quality safe seafood product to be enjoyed by all consumers. This is achieved by diligent monitoring of shellfish harvesting waters to protect public health. This monitoring enables a quick response when conditions indicate a change in water quality due to natural events such as algae blooms or unusual weather events.

For more information on the shellfish harvesting classifications, review the annual notice available at An interactive shellfishing map is also available.

For information on emergency and conditional area water quality related shellfish closures, call DEM’s 24-hour shell fishing hotline at 401-222-2900 or sign up for DEM’s Office of Water Resources’ listserv here: [email protected].

For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit Follow DEM on Facebook, Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM), or Instagram (@rhodeisland.dem) for timely updates.

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