Originally appearing: https://cranstononline.com/stories/raimondo-another-4m-to-support-take-it-outside-campaign,155882
By: Daniel A. Kitterage
Posted: Thursday, October 1, 2020
An additional investment is being made in a campaign to support outdoor commerce and activities across the state, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday, while the “show will go on” – with restrictions – as trick-or-treaters prepare for Halloween.
The governor’s weekly briefing brought few major announcements. Week-to-week comparisons show slight declines in Rhode Island’s positive test rate and number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, although new hospitalizations have increased – a trend the governor said is “not reason for panic,” given other recent numbers and the state’s existing hospital capacity.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 outbreaks at Providence College and the University of Rhode Island, which fueled an uptick in cases in September, appear to have been brought under control. Raimondo added, however, that a review of three-day averages in cases among various age groups shows a “pretty alarming and pretty crystal clear” trend among people between the ages of 19 and 24.
“It’s notable, it’s obvious, it jumps off the page,” she said, referencing a “huge spike” in cases among that age cohort roughly two weeks ago.
“We have to do something different. We are not reaching these young people … They are putting the rest of Rhode Island in danger,” she added, announcing the formation of a “young adult task force” to address the issue.
Perhaps the most significant news from Wednesday’s event was the investment of an additional $4 million in the state’s “Take It Outside” campaign. Raimondo said the program, which was announced two weeks ago with an additional $1 million investment from the state’s federal CARES Act funding, has received roughly 80 applications.
The governor said she has been “inspired” by the “unbelievably creative, can-do ideas” included in the applications. An initial round of grant awards, totaling $3 million, were scheduled to be announced Thursday, she said, while a second round for the additional $2 million will be opened shortly. Details can be found at takeitoutsideri.com.
“The science is crystal clear. It is much safer to be outside,” Raimondo said.
In a related announcement, Raimondo said effective immediately, the spacing requirement between outdoor tables at restaurants is being reduced from 8 feet to 6 feet. The governor acknowledged the change is minor but said she hopes dining establishments will be able to “fit a few more tables in” to help boost revenue.
In terms of Halloween, Raimondo expanded on previous remarks indicating she wants the celebration to go on despite the pandemic.
“This year, there will be Halloween in Rhode Island … but like everything else, it’s going to look different,” she said.
The governor and Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said some of the recommended changes will involve setting out candy in individual pieces or small bags, maintaining small groups, washing or sanitizing hands between stops and wearing cloth-based face coverings rather than typical Halloween masks.
In terms of large social gatherings in conjunction with the festivities, Raimondo said: “We are going to be on high alert for big Halloween house parties.” In remarks directed toward college students specifically, she said: “Don’t even think about it … We will bust your party. We will fine everybody 500 bucks.”