By Lynette Rice
August 18, 2020 at 06:00 PM EDT
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Galen Gering was supposed to leave to Salem by the end of the month. But fortunately for fans of Days of Our Lives, things change.

EW has learned exclusively that the actor, who has portrayed Rafe Hernandez since 2008, is sticking around on the NBC soap after all. Fans were expecting to say farewell forever since his contract has expired on the show and his last episode was going to air at month's end — but not anymore!

Life has been hard in Salem for Rafe. He lost custody of the boy he was going to adopt and he's divorced from Hope Williams Brady (Kristian Alfonso), though a reconciliation was in the works. There's certainly no chance of that now, since Alfonso announced she's leaving the show for good. The actress revealed in July that she wouldn't return to set and that she filmed her last episode several months ago.

“I feel blessed and honored to have been invited into people’s homes for over three decades," she said in a statement. "However, it is now time for me to write my next chapter."

Executive producer Ken Corday tells EW that he was "dismayed" by Alfonso's announcement, particularly since he had big plans for Hope. "In order to launch a new story — and we had a great story for her, we still do — I needed her off-camera for three or four months. During that time, something very interesting happens so she comes back to Salem with a secret. It doesn't look like that's going to happen."

When asked if there's a chance Alfonso would change her mind and stay at DOOL, Corday says, "That's up to Kristian."

Production on the NBC sudser will resume Aug. 31. Though the other daytime soaps got back to work in July, DOOL had the luxury of time because it had episodes in the can that could carry them through October. (DOOL, like every other TV show and film, went dark after COVID-19 forced a production shutdown in Hollywood.) "We didn't have to rush it," Corday tells EW. "I wanted to make absolutely sure we were dotting every I and crossing every T with county health."

And Corday has special plans for the show's 55th anniversary. Besides keeping Gering in the family, there will be more surprise returns to Salem. And yes, there may even be kissing and canoodling — assuming the actors are game. "It's really up to the individual actors and how much they do or don't want to do," Corday tells EW. "And no, we won't be using dolls."

Days of Our Lives airs weekdays on NBC.

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Days of Our Lives

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