This One State Isn't Reopening Because of Too Much "Summer Partying"
"Your right to have a party should not infringe on their right to live," the Rhode Island governor said.
In our pre-pandemic lives, summertime was synonymous with barbecues, beach houses, and vacations. But now, as the COVID-19 contagion continues to spread across the United States, that's no longer the case—or at least, it shouldn't be. While many people are antsy to get out and spend time with family and friends, public health officials have urged Americans to not gather in large groups, but one state in particular is having trouble getting its residents to listen. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced on July 29 that she is delaying her state's reopening plan because people are "partying too much." She added: "Social gatherings are too large and folks aren't wearing masks."
Raimondo's announcement at her weekly press briefing on Wednesday came the day after Rhode Island saw its highest number of daily COVID-19 infections since May 29, The Boston Globe reports. The governor said the Rhode Island Department of Health did a "deep dive" into 4,000 COVID-19 cases and, through contract tracing, they found that the recent spike in infections were mostly traced back to parties with more than 50 people not wearing face masks.
With loud music and alcohol, parties create a literal toxic mix that leads to the easy spread of the coronavirus: inebriated people not wearing masks with decreased inhibitions shouting in close proximity to one another.
"A house party of 50 people, a baby shower, a large birthday party in a backyard, a pool party, a sports banquet," Raimondo said. "People who knew each other. More than 20 people not wearing masks, mingling, no social distancing."
Raimondo said the Department of Health has traced seven to 10 positive cases of COVID-19 to each one of these gatherings, according to the Providence Journal.
"Yes, it's summer, I know you want to have a good time. We all do," the Rhode Island governor explained. "I have friends now with loved ones on ventilators. Your right to have a party should not infringe on their right to live."
As as a result of this disturbing trend, Raimondo announced an extension of phase 3 of Rhode Island's reopening plan for one more month, putting off phase 4. The state's website does not lay out what phase 4 entails, but reads:
There is more to look forward to on the other side of the third phase. Gathering and working restrictions will further relax. Additional businesses will open, and more group activities will be allowed. Along the way, we'll innovate as we challenge ourselves to find new and better ways of operating and living.
Raimondo also lowered the maximum size of gatherings in Rhode Island from 25 people to 15. Addressing those residents who have been ignoring social distancing guidelines, the governor said during the press briefing: "If you're doing this, I need you to knock it off, because people are getting sick, people are dying, and it's unnecessary."
COVID-19 has spread rapidly in recent weeks in many states that reopened early after lockdown. On the other hand, northeastern states like New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and to a lesser extent Rhode Island, were among the first states in the nation to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, and to get it relatively under control. But in recent weeks, these very states are now seeing residents flout the guidelines.
On July 24, a "drive-in concert" in New York featuring The Chainsmokers devolved into a large crowd of people who were not social distancing, which drew attention—and ire–from public officials. "I am at a loss as to how the Town of Southampton could have issued a permit for such an event, how they believed it was legal and not an obvious public health threat," Howard A. Zucker, New York's Health Commissioner, said in a statement.
Like Rhode Island, New Jersey also stalled moving ahead in its reopening plan in the past few weeks because of a recent increase in the rate of transmission, due to what New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called "knucklehead behavior here at home." On July 25, for example, a New Jersey party of 700 people at an AirBnB took local police five hours to break up, CNN reports.
On July 29, Raimondo left Rhode Islanders with the following message: "If you've been partying on boats, your backyard—20 to 25 people, no mask wearing—I'm asking you to stop it. You're the ones putting our state in jeopardy." And for more states that top officials have their eye on, check out Dr. Fauci Is Most Worried About These 4 States.