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Raimondo to Rhode Islanders: Please don’t party in big groups on Memorial Day

Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo spoke at a coronavirus update news conference earlier this month.
Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo spoke at a coronavirus update news conference earlier this month.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE - Even with two state beaches set to reopen on Memorial Day, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that residents should avoid large gatherings this holiday weekend so that the state doesn’t see a spike in coronvirus infections several weeks from now.

Raimondo said the state is still limiting gatherings to no more than five people, so “this is not the weekend to have a big party.”

“This is going to be hard,” Raimondo said during an afternoon press conference. “I can hear you complaining now.”

The state is reopening East Matunuck and Scarborough state beaches for Memorial Day, but parking will be limited, bathrooms will be closed, and no lifeguards will be on duty. Raimondo has said she doesn’t want to see the beaches overcrowded.

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Raimondo also offered more details on the state’s decision to allow churches and other places of worship to reopen on May 30, explaining that they will be required to limit their worshippers to 25 percent of capacity.

The governor said elderly people and those with pre-existing conditions should “think hard” about attending church services. She said she plans to go to church, but she will encourage her mother to stay home.

Raimondo’s announcements came on the same day that the Department of Health reported that six more residents who were infected with the coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of a fatalities to 538.

Health Department director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said two of the people who died were in their 80s and four were in their 90s.

The state also reported 209 new positive cases, which brings the total to 13,356 since March. There were 257 people in the hospital, 55 in intensive care and 45 on ventilators.

The new data shows that the highly contagious virus is likely to be the fourth-highest leading cause of death in Rhode Island in 2020, behind only heart disease, cancer, and accidents.

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Raimondo also said that members of the National Guard are no longer meeting passengers arriving at T.F. Green airport or operating checkpoints at the state border to remind people to self-quarantine for 14 days. While those restrictions remain in place, Raimondo said the National Guard is now focusing on contact tracing in the state.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.