PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Instead of standing in front of a podium to deliver her usual daily press briefing, Gov. Gina Raimondo sat in front of a fireplace Thursday and spoke directly to Rhode Island kids about the ongoing pandemic.
Raimondo, alongside First Gentleman Andy Moffit, answered about 20 questions sent in from kids across the state, ranging from what she’s doing to protect first responders and healthcare workers to whether the Easter bunny will be quarantined.
Raimondo said her office received more than 13,000 questions from Rhode Island students.
“You guys are smart and curious and creative, and I appreciate you reaching out,” Raimondo said.
Before answering questions, Raimondo announced the expansion of Bradley Hospital’s Kids Link program. She urged kids who need help or are feeling scared to call 855-543-5465.
“It’s important to reach out for help,” she said. “You don’t have to be alone.”
Jacob, a 7th Grader from East Greenwich, asked Raimondo if her restrictions on gatherings will get smaller, adding that his family is a “party of five.” Raimondo said she doesn’t plan on restricting gatherings any fewer than five people.
She also said Rhode Islanders who are parts of larger families shouldn’t worry either. The best thing kids can do, she said, is to start a journal and write down all the places they go and who they come into contact with each day.
When asked about prom and graduation ceremonies this year, Raimondo said she wasn’t going to sugarcoat it: in-person celebrations will most likely not happen.
“I’m really sorry. This stinks,” she said. “This is not the senior year you hoped to have…It’s really unlikely we will allow you to have your proms, sports banquets, award ceremonies or even graduations.”
“We are going to find new ways to celebrate you and your accomplishments and have some fun, but being in big groups of people is not going to be safe,” she added.
Raimondo also squashed any speculation that students will have to repeat the school year.
“It’s not going to happen,” she said. But added: “I need you to be serious about distance learning.”
One student asked when it would be safe to return to school again.
“I wish I had a crystal ball and knew when that magic date was,” she said, adding that she has to take many factors into consideration to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff. “If distance learning is going really well and you’re still learning, then that makes me think that we can continue distance learning and I don’t have to take the safety risk of opening schools again.”
Many kids likely breathed a sigh of relief at Raimondo’s answer to kindergartener Thomas, who asked if the Easter bunny would be quarantined this year.
“I would never quarantine the Easter bunny,” Raimondo said, adding that bunnies can’t get the coronavirus. “The Easter bunny is an essential worker.”