Rhode Island

RI Sets May 30 for Houses of Worship to Reopen With Limited Capacity

Many religious leaders in Rhode Island say they will keep their capacity lower than the mandatory 25%

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Places of worship in Rhode Island are scheduled to reopen with limited capacity by the end of the month, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday.

During her daily news conference, Raimondo said the target date is to have places of worship reopen with restrictions on the weekend of May 30.

Earlier in the week, the governor said the administration has been working with an advisory group of faith leaders across the state.

"It's been hard to drive a consensus," Raimondo said Wednesday, adding that places of worship will be able to reopen at 25% capacity.

She said many religious leaders have already said they will keep their capacity limit lower because they don't feel comfortable.

Raimondo stressed that although reopening places of worship is a step forward, she highly recommends staying home if you are sick.

"Please do not go if you are sick," Raimondo said. "At the end of the day, I'm trusting the people of Rhode Island to do the right thing."

The governor said Holy Communion will be allowed in Christian churches but not wine. Other guidelines will be detailed later in the week on the Reopening RI website.

The governor on Tuesday announced the launch of a free app that aims to boost contact tracing efforts in the state.

The "Crush COVID" app will help identify "hot spots" and provide vital resources and has an optional "location diary" through which users can record the locations they have visited and people they have been with. That data is stored on the user's phone only and is automatically deleted after 20 days.

On Wednesday, Raimondo said in less than 24 hours, 10,000 Rhode Islanders, or 1%, had already downloaded the voluntary app.

Health officials announced 6 new deaths from the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the state's death toll to 538. There were 209 new cases of the disease, bringing the statewide total to 13,356.

Earlier in the week, Raimondo announced that East Matunuck and Scarborough state beaches, as well as state parks, would reopen in time for Memorial Day with restrictions in place.

At both beaches, there will be limited parking spots, no lifeguards on duty, no concessions and no access to bathrooms or changing rooms, she said. On the plus side, visitors to the beaches will not have to pay.

"It's a symbol that we have to carry on our lives," Raimondo said Wednesday. "I want to remind you that it's a symbolic opening."

Raimondo reminded residents that the limit on social gatherings is still 5 and that Memorial Day weekend is not an excuse to have a "big party." She said if the social distancing rules are followed, then hospitalizations will increase.

"If you don't do that, then 2-3 weeks from now, we're going to see a problem," Raimondo said.

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