By PHILIP COZZOLINO
PROVIDENCE – Governor Gina Raimondo is targeting the weekend of May 30 for the reopening of places of worship, stressing that those who are in any way symptomatic should not go out and asking the elderly and anyone with underlying health issues to consider the risks before making a decision. If churches, synagogues, mosques and other faith-based facilities were to return that weekend, they would be doing so in a limited way, much like other public places, such as parks and non-essential retailers, have since the state entered Phase 1 of reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Please do not go if you are sick,” said Raimondo Wednesday. “That is very important. At the end of the day, I’m trusting the people of Rhode Island to do the right thing. If you are a senior, if you have an underlying health condition, if you are frail, you really need to think hard about whether going to a place of worship, going anywhere, is really the right move for you right now.”
Raimondo said she had assembled a small group of faith-based leaders throughout the state in targeting the weekend of May 30 date and determining policy for the reopening of faith-based facilities. After consulting with that group, the governor said places of worship would initially be limited to 25 percent of their total capacity if they were to reopen.
“I have heard from many faith-based leaders that aren’t going to do that, they just don’t feel comfortable,” said Raimondo. “They’re going to keep it to gatherings of five, 10 or 20 and I support that. That is your decision. Others of you, I think, would like to go above the 25 percent, and we cannot support that, not now. The whole name of the game is slow and steady.”
A list of other safety measures required at places of worship will be available online at reopeningri.com later this week. Raimondo said the restrictions would be the typical limitations the state has seen in the recent reopening of other public places, such as keeping six feet of distance with other people.
In her COVID-19 press briefing, the governor also urged the public to adhere to the five-person limit at social gatherings this Memorial Day, May 25, stating the consequences of not doing so would be drastic.
“This is going to be hard,” said Raimondo. “I can hear you complaining now. I can hear my own family complaining now. The limit on social gatherings is five people. This weekend is not a weekend to throw a big party or have a big barbeque. Get together in a small group, enjoy your family, go for a walk, go to the beach, keep the social gatherings to a limit.”
“If you don’t do that, then two or three weeks from now, we’re going to see a problem,” she continued. “If you have big Memorial Day blowouts this weekend with lots of people gathering, not wearing masks, not being socially distant, then two or three weeks from now we’re going to see a spike in hospitalizations.”
Raimondo said she is likely to discuss Phase 2 of reopening the state at her briefing Friday.
“I hope to give you the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Finally, the governor and the Rhode Island Department of Health announced an additional 209 cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 13,356, along with an additional six fatalities due to the novel coronavirus for a statewide total of 538 deaths.
“It’s a reminder to all of us that every time I get up here and every time I say ‘x number of more cases, x number of more deaths,’ there’s a person behind that number,” said Raimondo. “It means somebody’s lost a loved one, it means hundreds of our friends and family are sick, often times very sick. So let’s just try to remember that and keep that in mind as we go through our daily lives. This is a deadly virus.”
3,086 were tested in the prior day to obtain the data above. Currently, there are 257 people in the hospital, with 58 of those patients in the intensive care unit and 45 patients on ventilators. To date, 1,030 people have been discharged from the hospital. Of the 120,528 COVID-19 tests conducted in the state, 107,172 have been negative.