‘Will next year be normal?’: Raimondo answers students’ COVID-19 questions

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Many Rhode Island students are wondering the same thing: Will everything be back to normal by the time the fall semester rolls around?

Gov. Gina Raimondo said while she expects classes will be in person come fall, she acknowledged that it will probably look much different under the new social distancing mandates.

“We have to do things differently because of the virus,” Raimondo said during a special briefing for students on Thursday. “We’ll probably be washing our hands more often, the way we have lunch and breakfast may be different, we’ll probably have to spread out a little bit more in the classrooms, there will be much more cleaning – we have to be flexible.”

When it comes to colleges and universities in the Ocean State, Raimondo said she has asked all 20 of the state’s institutions to submit a detailed plan on how they will reopen safely.

“The good news is that we have several months to plan for it and we’re doing that,” Raimondo said. “Our hope is to give you a chance to go to college in the fall.”

Bryant University announced Thursday morning that students will be back on campus in the fall, however, there will be new protocols in place to keep students, faculty and staff safe from the virus.

One student asked Raimondo if she would be able to attend summer camp this year. Raimondo said summer camps will be open, but activities will not take place the way that kids are used to.

“I am not sure how camps will be different, but they will be different. We’re not going to be able to get together in big groups this summer,” Raimondo said, adding that virtual summer camps may be a better option.

On Wednesday, Raimondo announced that all events, including festivals, concerts, weddings, must be limited to 50 people or less. The organizers of the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals canceled the annual events soon after.

Raimondo also addressed the Class of 2020 and reassured seniors that they will figure out safe ways to celebrate their accomplishments.

“I feel bad for the Class of 2020, this is not the senior year anybody wanted,” Raimondo said. “Most events won’t be able to happen in the way you thought it would happen, but we will find new ways to celebrate.”

“I’m asking you to be creative,” she added. “By the time graduation rolls around in June, we will probably be in a place where we can only gather in groups of 20 or fewer.”

Raimondo also said on June 15, there will be a statewide televised graduation.

The regularly scheduled Rhode Island coronavirus briefing will be back Friday at 1 p.m. where Raimondo said she expects to make a more “hopeful” announcement about Rhode Islanders’ ability to use the state’s parks and beaches this summer.

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