Dropping the bomb many feared was coming, Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday announced that major events this summer that traditionally draw hundreds of people will not be able to happen due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.
Those events, said Raimondo, include festivals, concerts and parades. Summer weddings, she said, will likely have to be limited to 50 or fewer people. She said during her press briefing there's an outside chance that weddings of up to 100 people could happen during the month of August.
Raimondo said she'll have more guidance Friday on the state's beach season, indicating she'll have some hopeful information.
The cancellation of major events will prove to be a double hit to quality of life and the economy, with the state and communities relying on the funds that come with festivals. Many events-based businesses will also absorb a significant loss.
Asked in particular about parades, and how those might be different from a festival or concert if proper spacing is maintained, said those are the kinds of questions she and other officials have been asking. She said the prospect of ever having to close down the economy again "is a terrible one" and one she's looking to avoid, and she has to listen to the advice of public health experts to minimize the risk. The potential to have the virus spread at a major event could set the state back to where it was six weeks ago, she said, and it "just seems like the right thing to cancel parades."
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, said officials are focused on science in making their decisions. Large crowds such as those at a parade "significantly increases the risk of transmitting" the coronavirus, she said. It's challenging to maintain adequate spacing, she said, especially when children are involved, and the risk involved simply outweighs the benefits of these important events. A cautious approach, she said, is the best one to make sure that the state can get back to enjoying large events in the future.