Churches to Partially Reopen: Summary of the governor’s May 20 press conference

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Providence Pedestrian Bridge.

With Memorial Day around the corner, Governor Gina Raimondo delivered a message that struck a balance between carrying on our daily lives and continuing to take COVID-19 seriously. As usual the governor started with a few numbers: Yesterday 10,000 Rhode Islanders downloaded the new “one-stop-shop” Crush COVID app; today the number of COVID fatalities was 6; and 209 new cases were confirmed. She then gave her empathy to those hurt by COVID-19 saying, “There’s a person behind that number.”

 Despite the time we are in, Memorial Day is still a special and solemn holiday and the governor is opening two beaches in Rhode Island (East Matunuck and Scarborough), “as a symbol that we have to carry on our lives.” Social distancing, mask-wearing, limiting the duration of an outing and keeping groups at five or fewer must all still be done when going to the beach or gathering for Memorial Day. There will be no public bathrooms, lifeguards or concessions. The governor warned us, “This is not the weekend to throw a big party…[or else]…two to three weeks from now we’re going to see a spike in hospitalizations.” 

The governor also addressed those currently serving America. “Thank you. We’re proud of you…We are keeping your families safe [here in Rhode Island].” She also asked all Rhode Islanders to, “find time to express gratitude for veterans.” She then brought attention to the 1,000 guardsmen and gaurdswomen helping with the COVID outbreak in Rhode Island. 


Healthcare, according to the governor, has seen a decline across the board in Rhode Island. “There’s been a “30 to 40% decline in child immunizations,” she said, and it’s important that Rhode Islanders call their doctors and arrange for healthcare such as cancer therapy, immunizations, doctor visits, and elective surgery. “I know you are scared [but]…it’s safe to do it,” the governor assured Rhode Islanders and emphasized that RI medical facilities have “fantastic infection control protocols.” 

Lastly, the governor announced that places of worship are scheduled to partially reopen the weekend of May 30 as long as the attendees don’t exceed 25% of the building’s capacity and all health and safety precautions are still being taken. Though virtual worship is not the same as in person, the governor once again warned those at-risk, such as seniors and those who have underlying conditions, “Please do not go” or at least, carefully consider what they are doing. In support of worship leaders who plan to keep the capacity below 25%, the governor remarked how, “The whole name of the game now is slow and steady,” which echoed her theme of caution and progress throughout the conference.