RHODE ISLAND – The Ocean State will celebrate Halloween this year, according to Gov. Gina Raimonodo, but like everything else, it will look a bit different.
"The show will go on," Raimondo said on Wednesday at her weekly press conference. "This year, there will be Halloween in Rhode Island."
"There'll be extra precautions you'll have to take, but the good new is you can get a costume, you can go out and get your candy," she added.
Those who'll be trick-or-treating this year are instructed to go in small groups, wear a cloth face covering, wash or sanitize their hands frequently, "and try not to say out forever."
As we approach the Halloween season, the governor stressed the need to be sensible and continue with social distancing guidelines.
"We're trying to do the right thing here," Rainmondo said, "by allowing the kids to Trick-or-Treat."
For everyone else, especially college students, the governor stressed that large costume parties can not happen this year. Although it's normally a huge and wildly popular party season among young adults, Raimondo warned against people carrying on with business as usual.
"Don't even try it," she said. "We will bust your party. We will fine everyone $500 bucks. Don't even think about it."
The kids can safely do their outdoor trick-or-treating, "but for the rest of us," the governor stressed social distancing guidelines are still in place. Large gatherings at house parties or in bars can't happen.
"One bad weekend, one bad party, one event, can cause a big outbreak three or four weeks down the road," Raimondo said.
For families that will be trick-or-treating this year, Rhode Island Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott heavily stressed that first and foremost, those who are feeling sick cannot participate in any way.
"That means not going out from house to house with symptoms or not leaving candy out for trick-or-treaters," she said. "Both of those should not occur if you're feeling sick in any way."
Alexander-Scott said that parents will need to do a symptom check with their children before leaving the house. They'll need to actively determining if their child has a "cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath, muscle or body aches, diarrhea, headache, sore throat, nausea, or any of the other COVID-19 symptoms."
In addition to this, families are also instructed to trick-or-treat with their close contacts in small, stable groups.
For those who are expecting trick-or-treaters, Alexander-Scott said that unlike years past, they won't be able to open their doors and let children choose from a bowl of candy.
"A creative way to do this differently, is to leave individually wrapped goodie bags outside," she said. "Alternatively, you can leave individual pieces of wrapped candy on a baking sheet – spread out – so no one's touching something more than once."
People who are putting out candy should be washing their hands regularly, according to Alexander-Scott, and those who are going door-to-door "should bring hand sanitizer along each time, in between." During trick-or-treating, masks are absolutely necessary, and costume masks will not suffice as a replacement for cloth face coverings.
"We want Halloween to go on, but it has to be done differently this year," she said.
House parities among college students is of particular concern to the Department of Health, given the spike in case numbers among young adults. According to Raimondo, the data is crystal clear that younger Rhode Islanders, ages 19 to 24, are not following guidelines.
"It's pretty crystal clear where we're struggling, and what age group isn't following the rules," she said, pointing to a slide that showed a much higher average number of cases among this age group than anyone else. "It's notable, it's obvious, it jumps off the page."
The numbers show that college students' social circles are too big, and mask compliance is too low, she said.
"I'm asking you to do better," she said. "You may be young and healthy, but you're spreading this to people who aren't young and healthy."
"For the sake of your loved ones, for the sake of the rest of the Rhode Island community, for the sake of the many, many, many restaurant owners and hotel owners that I've heard from – whose businesses are suffering because we went back on the travel restriction list for New York and Connecticut , because of the outbreak at PC and in this age group – I'm asking you to do better."
The governor said she believes most college students are doing the right thing already, and with their help, she announced the formation of Young Adult Task Force – a group that will work on social engagement and meeting students where they are to improve compliance.
According to the latest data from the Rhode Island Department of Health, the percentage of people testing positive for the virus is down this week from last. This week, only 1.2 percent of individuals tested are testing positive, compared to last week's 1.4 percent.
The average number of cases per 100,000 people has also dropped slightly, from 73 to 70, compared to last week.
The Rhode Island Department of Health found a slight uptick in the number of new hospitalizations, from 43 to 66, though the governor stated that this should not be a serious cause for alarm.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health reported 173 new positive cases of COVID-19. Notable, however, the state was able to test 9,000 individuals the day prior, working out to 1.9 percent positive.
"We continue to lead the nation in testing," Raimondo said. "It's actually more important now than ever, now that the kids are back to school."
"Testing is key to keep a lid on the virus," she added.
Sadly, the Department of Health also reported one new COVID-19-related fatality on Wednesday.
At the moment, 103 Rhode Islanders are currently being hospitalized. Seven of these individuals are in intensive care units and six of these individuals are on ventilators.