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Beaches to Open for Memorial Day: Summary of the governor’s May 18 press conference

Governor Gina Raimondo and DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott held the COVID press conference today at 1pm at The Vets. All press conferences this week will be at 1pm, except Wednesday’s, which will be at 2:30pm.

Today they announced that RI saw 121 new COVID cases since yesterday. A bit of a drop, according to the governor. Two hundred thirty-six people are hospitalized, and of those, 62 are in the ICU. Forty-six people are on ventilators. There are seven new deaths to report: one person was in their 50s, one in their 60s, four in their 80s, and one in their 90s. The total number of COVID-associated deaths in the Ocean State has now topped 500.

The governor announced that two state beaches would be open (for free) starting on Memorial Day. East Matunuck and Scarborough State Beaches will reopen on May 25. The governor noted there would be restrictions, such as reduced parking; closed bathrooms, changing stalls, concessions and showers; and no lifeguard on duty. While it is free to get in, a complete list of the restrictions will be available later this week on reopeningri.com. As of today, all state parks are open again, including Goddard State Park in East Greenwich.

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Houses of worship can expect to begin reopening again starting the weekend of May 30. Faith leaders are expected to prepare a plan for new restrictions, and can expect a reduced building capacity, no hymnals or papers in the pews, increased cleaning (again with full detailed restrictions available on reopeningri.com). “It’s gonna take some time to get ready and we recognize that,” said the governor.

The governor today reminded Rhode Islanders that tomorrow at 4pm was the deadline to get a mail ballot application in. She expects this year’s presidential primary to be mainly a mail ballot election. Any Rhode Islanders looking to vote via mail-in this year should fill out and mail the mail ballot application that was mailed to their home. If you lost yours, you can print a new one at sos.ri.gov. 

Governor Raimondo today acknowledged Governor Baker in Massachusetts was making changes in restrictions every week, and reopening some things (such as salons and churches) sooner than the Ocean State. “It’s a judgement call,” she said. “But it’s roughly consistent, which is to say we’re opening in phases.” The governor said she hoped people would wait the extra week for salons and churches to be open in RI rather than going over the border to attend those services.

When asked about the crowded Providence College parties over the weekend, the governor today deferred to local law enforcement. She acknowledged that state police had been breaking up birthday parties all weekend and would continue to do so as the summer developed. The governor said she was frustrated saying, “It’s foolish to think you can trick the virus, outrun the virus, try to get around the rules.” Three weeks from now people will get sick. She said to look at Sweden as an example of what happens when people don’t follow the rules and guidelines made in the name of public health. 

Motif today asked the governor about the surveillance testing measures, and the response rate on the 5,000 random Rhode Islanders randomly chosen to get tested. Dr. Alexander-Scott said they were getting a robust response rate, and were continuing to collect numbers and data.

Tomorrow’s press conference is at 1pm, broadcasting from The Vets. You can watch online on local news stations, Facebook Live, or Capitol TV.

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