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PROVIDENCE, RI — Rhode Island will remain in phase three of reopening for an additional month, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday. Following an uptick in cases of coronavirus connected to backyard parties and other social events, the social gathering limit will be lowered from 25 people to 15.
Phase three, which was set to expire Wednesday, was extended by 30 days to Aug. 28 because the state was unable to meet all four requirements for moving forward, specifically the R-value, or rate of inter-person spread. Rhode Island's value is currently at 1.5, above the benchmark of 1.1.
This increase can be directly related to backyard parties, barbecues, baby showers and other large, informal social gatherings where families and friends gather without masks or proper distancing, Raimondo said. Because of this, the state has seen a slight uptick in new cases, and people are dying every day, she said.
"If you're doing this, I need you to knock it off because people are getting sick, people are dying, and it's not necessary," Raimondo said. "Your right to have a party should not infringe on their right to live."
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, said it's difficult to regulate these gatherings, which are rarely distanced.
"There is too much transmission going on right now, particularly tied to the social gatherings," Alexander-Scott said. "Wearing masks is critical. Wearing masks is key ... Too many people have told us they could have done better ... Too many young people are identified multiple, multiple contacts."
Catered events such as weddings are currently limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Special events planned for August with more than the limit could happen Raimondo said, as long as the organizers reach out to the Department of Health and explain that all safety regulations are closely followed.
While the lowered cap on social gatherings may seem draconian, the governor continued, it's important to "keep a lid" on the virus so Rhode Islanders can get back to work and school.
Patch editor Scott Souza contributed to this report.