Churches Limited to 25% Capacity; Outdoor Dining Safest

by | May 20, 2020

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Gov. Gina Raimondo speaks her Wednesday COVID-19 press conference at the Veterans Auditorium. Pool photo: Sandor Bodo / Providence Journal

After two days of new COVID-19 cases below 150, the number was 209 Wednesday, with 6 new deaths. To date, Rhode Island has seen 13,356 confirmed virus cases, and 538 deaths. The percentage of deaths among the oldest and most vulnerable residents remains high – of those announced Wednesday, 2 of the people were in their 80s and 4 were in their 90s. Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said almost all of the deaths have been among older people or those with underlying health conditions. The number of confirmed cases in East Greenwich was 66 – the first time that number has been updated in a week. Find all the latest data on the DOH data dashboard HERE.

The full list of guidelines for the reopening of houses of worship is still a day or two away, but on Wednesday Gov. Gina Raimondo said the limit for religious gatherings would be 25 percent capacity of any particular house of worship, which are allowed to reopen Saturday, May 30. 

Raimondo said she planned to attend her church, St. Raymond’s in Providence, that Sunday, which is the Christian holy day of Pentecost. She added the communion wafer would be allowed but not the passing of the cup (the wine). 

“I’m relying on faith-based leaders to keep their congregants safe,” she said at the Wednesday COVID-19 press conference at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence. 

In a question poised by radio host and EG resident John DePetro about air conditioning potentially worsening the spread of the virus when dining is allowed indoors, Dept. of Health head Nicole Alexander-Scott said ventilation was key, which is why outdoor dining is safer right now. But she also said there are a number of factors that go into creating safe spaces, including good cleaning regimens and space between diners. 

“Science is definitely showing us that outside is better,” she said, but she noted the understanding of and compliance to the rules were really important as we move forward. 

Raimondo said National Guard checkpoints at state borders and the airport have stopped, mainly because the staffing was needed elsewhere and “there was not much work to do.” She said they were needed to help with contact tracing more than at the state’s borders and noted that travel restrictions would be eased when the state gets to Phase 2, probably in early June.

On Thursday (5/21), there will be a Facebook Live town hall for older Rhode Islanders and their families at 11 a.m. Find a link to the governor’s Facebook page HERE. If you have a question related to this topic, submit them to [email protected] quickly!

The Thursday and Friday press conferences are at 1 p.m. There will be no Monday press conference because of the Memorial Day holiday.

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