Rhode Island could pump the brakes on the state’s economic recovery plan if the current surge in coronavirus cases continues, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday.
“We’re continuing to trend in the wrong direction,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference.
The state Department of Health on Wednesday reported more than 400 new confirmed cases of the disease for the fourth time in the past week, and the state positivity rate, the number of new hospital admissions, and the number of new cases per 100,000 population were all on the rise.
“We’re nearing our own metrics to move back to phase 2,” she said. “On the trajectory we are on, that could happen in a week or two.”
Without getting specific, Raimondo said she would announce new restrictions to put a stop to the current surge on Friday, but hinted it could include stricter limits on social gatherings.
If the current trends continue, hospitals could get overwhelmed within four to five weeks and the state would have to open field hospitals, she said.
The jump in cases is being driven by people attending smaller, casual gatherings with family and friends where they let their guard down and stop wearing face coverings.
“The truth of the matter is we’re all starting to spend time with too many people,” she said.
People should reduce their social network and stop attending post-church coffee hours, stop hanging out with coworkers after work, and stop inviting friends over for dinner.
The upward trend in new cases in not being driven by schoolchildren, and it is unlikely the state will switch to all-remote learning, Raimondo said.
Out of nearly 100,000 students around the state engaged in some kind of in-person instruction, there have been 363 confirmed COVID-19 cases, she said. And out of almost 50,000 students learning entirely remotely, there have been 312 cases.
There is no data to suggest that going virtual is safer for students and teachers, she said.
CONTACT TRACER ABUSE
The state’s roughly 300 contact tracers are overwhelmed, and are running into verbal abuse and resistance as they try to do their jobs, Raimondo said.
The contact tracers are responsible for getting in touch with people who had contact with someone who tested positive for the virus and encourage them to get tested and to isolate.
They are often being met with aggression, cursing and rudeness, the governor said.
“The level of aggression that our contact tracers are receiving in the last couple of weeks, just because they’re trying to do their job, is not OK,” she said.
The state has hired 50 contact tracers in the past week and is also looking to hire 100 full-time case investigators.
Rhode Island’s seven-day average of daily new cases and the positivity rate continue to rise.
The state Department of Health on Wednesday reported 425 new confirmed cases out of almost 13,400 tests, a daily positivity rate of 3.2%.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate has now jumped over the past two weeks from 1.76% on Oct. 13 to more than 3% on Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from almost 195 on Oct. 13 to more than 399 on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins statistics.
The state also reported for more virus-related fatalities on Wednesday, for a total of 1,192 deaths.
The number of people in the hospital with the disease fell slightly to 136 as of Monday, the latest day for which the information was available. Eighteen patients are in intensive care.