Citing the latest data showing a significant increase in the spread of COVID-19 and related hospitalizations nationally, the CDC said Wednesday that residents and leaders in many areas of the United States should implement or consider stricter containment measures, including wearing masks in public indoor settings and further testing. Here’s what Rhode Island residents need to know.
Is Rhode Island one of the areas that the CDC says should consider tighter measures?
Yes. The agency said its guidelines apply to areas rated as medium or high in the community-level rating system. Four counties in Rhode Island are now classified as high: Providence, Kent, Bristol and Washington. Newport County is medium-sized.
How are community level ratings calculated?
Community risk is classified as low (color-coded green), moderate (yellow), or high (orange) “by looking at hospital beds used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area,” according to the CDC.
What are the latest Rhode Island numbers?
On Thursday, Rhode Island reported no new coronavirus-related deaths and 1,043 additional cases of COVID-19 — the first time since Feb. 1 that more than 1,000 cases were reported in a day. The state also reported 8,345 negative tests, for an 11.1% positive rate. As of Wednesday, Rhode Island had reported more cases per capita in the past seven days than any other state in the country, though testing rates now vary dramatically from state to state. In Rhode Island, new cases are up 10% from a week ago and 38% from two weeks ago.
At last count, there were 103 COVID-positive patients in Rhode Island hospitals, compared with more than 600 at the peak of the Omicron wave in mid-January. The state health department reports that in the last month about 40% of COVID-positive patients have tested positive after being admitted for reasons unrelated to the virus. COVID was the main reason for hospitalization in only about a third of these patients.
Do confirmed case numbers reflect the true picture?
no Self-testing has increased, and many—perhaps most—people who learn they are infected through self-testing do not report it to local, state, or federal authorities.
“Although the reported number of cases in the US is now over 100,000 per day, the actual number is clearly orders of magnitude higher,” Mark Lurie, an epidemiologist at Brown University School of Public Health, told The Journal on Thursday. “We are clearly seeing the next wave; Who among us does not know several people who got infected during this wave?”
What are the projections for COVID in our state as spring turns to summer?
“With COVID-19 now an endemic disease in Rhode Island, we should expect moderate increases and decreases in our COVID-19 levels over the coming months,” Health Department spokesman Joseph Wendelken said in an email Thursday to The Journal. “Fortunately, we now have an adequate supply of vaccines, treatment and testing resources. As a result, we do not expect our caseloads and hospital admissions to match the levels of the January spike.”
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What general advice does the health department give?
“Anyone not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccine should update themselves today,” Wendelken said. “A booster dose reduces the chance of you being hospitalized with COVID-19 by 55 times. Likewise, the treatment is extremely effective in preventing serious illness from COVID-19. Contact your doctor immediately for treatment if you test positive for COVID-19.”
What about masking?
“Rhode Island is following the CDC’s guidelines for community preventive measures,” Wendelken said. “For people in mid-level counties, these municipal preventive measures do not include a universal recommendation for masks in indoor public spaces. However, anyone can choose to wear a mask. People at high risk of serious illness should speak to their healthcare providers about wearing masks.”
With summer on the horizon, I plan to travel. What factors should I consider?
“If people are traveling, they should know that the CDC still recommends masks on public transit and at interchanges,” Wendelken said. “People should also be aware of local recommendations regarding COVID-19.”
Lurie said: “With a lot of infectious people in the community, my recommendation at the moment would be to travel only when necessary, get vaccinated, charge up and wear a well-fitting mask. Just because you want the virus to be over doesn’t mean it’s over.”
Should travelers from other mid- and high-tier areas to Rhode Island take precautions?
Yes, according to Lurie, who offered the same guidance as for state residents planning a trip.
Wendelken wrote, “This is a benefit of adhering to the CDC’s standard guidelines for limiting the spread of COVID-19: By consulting the CDC’s website, people coming to Rhode Island can find out about the COVID-19 recommendations and Travelers informing other parts of the country from Rhode Island can learn about the COVID-19 recommendations where to go.”
Which New England counties have a high community rating?
Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven and Windham in Connecticut; Aroostook, Hancock and Penobscot in Maine; Barnstable (Cape Cod), Berkshire, Dukes (Martha’s Vineyard), Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk (Boston) and Worcester in Massachusetts; Grafton, Rockingham and Sullivan in New Hampshire; and Bennington, Rutland and Windsor in Vermont.
Where can I find community level ratings for each US region?
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With reports by Editor-in-Chief Michael McDermott.
COVID in numbers
Cases in RI: 386,196 (1,043 reported Thursday)
Negative tests in RI: 7,494,797 (8,345 reported Thursday; 11.1% positive rate)
RI COVID-related deaths: 3,561 (0 reported Thursday)
Rhode Islanders hospitalized with COVID: 103 (6 in ICU)
Fully vaccinated in RI: 832,181 (952,205 at least partially vaccinated)
Cases in Mass.: 1,830,028
dimensions COVID-related deaths: 20,453
Cases in the US: 83,005,804
Deaths related to COVID in US: 1,001,433