PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The mayor of Providence declared a state of emergency on Thursday and barred gatherings of more than 100 people in response to the threat from the new coronavirus.
Mayor Jorge Elorza said the city would not issue any licenses or permits for special events until further notice, and would temporarily revoke any entertainment licenses that have already been issued. In addition, nightclubs and restaurants will be limited to 100 guests at a time.
City-sponsored events, including the annual St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day celebrations at Providence City Hall, will be rescheduled, he said.
All non-essential public meetings will be canceled, but essential meetings required to ensure basic operations of government will proceed.
The measures were necessary because Providence is the “cultural, economic and medical center” of the state, Elorza said.
So far, there have been five presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the state.
COLLEGE CANCELS CLASSES
Brown University is sending students home and moving to online-only classes in response to the threat of the new coranavirus, the Ivy League school announced Thursday.
Undergraduate students who live in campus residences or Brown-owned properties were told to move out as soon as possible and no later than March 22. Online learning will start March 30.
Classes are canceled for the week of March 16 so faculty members have time to prepare and students have time to pack and arrange for travel.
Providence College on Wednesday announced that it is suspending all in-person classes starting Monday and until at least April 13.
Colleges across the nation have made similar moves.
ST. PATRICK’S DAY PARADE CANCELED
A day after giving the go-ahead for the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Newport City Council reversed course and pulled the parade’s permits in response to the threat from the new coronavirus.
The council voted 7-0 Wednesday to cancel Saturday’s parade. The council had voted 4-3 on Tuesday to allow the parade to go forward.
The reversal came after Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo and the state Department of Health recommended against holding mass gatherings.
Major cities across the U.S., including Boston, New York City and Chicago, have cancelled their St. Patrick’s Day parades.
CATHOLICS EXCUSED FROM MASS
Roman Catholic churches in Rhode Island are remaining open to offer Mass during the coronavirus crisis, but parishioners are not obligated to attend Sunday services, the Diocese of Providence said in a statement Thursday.
The diocese said Catholics are allowed to miss Sunday Mass through March 29. Catholics age 60 and older, especially those with underlying health conditions - considered most at risk from the coronavirus - are encouraged to take advantage of the special dispensation.
The diocese also said every extent possible, churches are to remain open for personal prayer, small gatherings and devotions.
SCHOOL SHUTDOWN PLANS
Rhode Island’s education commissioner has ordered every school district in the state to prepare a plan in the event they have to close because of the new coronavirus.
Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green called on the plans to be submitted by the end of the day on March 19. The Department of Education will review these plans and make suggestions to ensure the continuity of learning for Rhode Island students, she said.
STATE HOUSE RESTRICTIONS
State lawmakers will continue to hold legislative hearings, but restrictions will be in effect at the State House until further notice.
The General Assembly said Thursday that access to the Senate and House chambers will be restricted to lawmakers, staff and media.
Legislative committees have also been asked to delay hearings on issues that traditionally draw large crowds, and the public is encouraged to submit written testimony instead of attending in person.
The General Assembly also said its annual St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day celebrations next week will be cancelled, as will its Greek Independence Day celebration on March 26.
ABOUT THE VIRUS
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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