City officials plan to sign an executive order limiting social gatherings to five people, or only to immediate household groups. Currently, the state cap on social gatherings is ten. The executive order will go into effect next week, on Sunday, November 22. 

“This is guidance,” Elorza said Tuesday, elaborating that city police are unlikely to enforce the order. “This truly requires every single person just taking the responsibility personally.”

Additionally, the city will limit private catered indoor gatherings to ten people for indoor gatherings, and 25 for outdoor occasions. Events beyond that limit will need to obtain a permit from the city, for which organizers will need to outline plans for health protocols such as social distancing. 

As COVID-19 cases surge across the state, the rate of infection is more than 6,000 cases per 100,000 people in Providence, the second highest rate in the state, according to data from the state health department. There have been more than 300 COVID-19-related fatalities in the city.

On Tuesday, the state reported 605 new cases of the illness.

During a virtual press conference Elorza shared that both his parents contracted COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic. 

“My mother got extremely sick, to the point where we had to call rescue and she was taken to the hospital,” Elorza said Tuesday. His mother spent two weeks on a ventilator at Rhode Island Hospital, before improving.

“We almost thought we were going to lose her,” Elorza said. The mayor himself did not contract the virus, but said he chose to share his parents’ story because fears some residents are not taking the illness seriously.

“There are still a lot of folks out there in the community that still say this sickness is nothing but a bad flu.

Elorza said the city is refraining from more stringent restrictions on places like restaurants, in part because restaurants do not appear to be the primary driver of new cases. Elorza said contact tracing has shown that informal social gatherings where people share meals, remove masks, or fail to social distance, along with so-called “super spreader” events are primary drivers of the spike. 

City Hall remains open for limited in-person services, and employees are being encouraged to work remotely. Earlier this week, Providence Municipal Court announced hearings and arraignments would be halted until further notice.

“What we have tried to do, through these new requirements and guidance is navigate that balance as best as possible,” Elorza said. “Being tailored specifically to the areas where we’re seeing spread, but also supporting our families and supporting our businesses as much as possible."