Coronavirus Concerns: RI leaders urge schools, groups to postpone or cancel trips abroad


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott held a news conference Thursday morning to provide an update on the state’s response to the novel coronavirus and the cases being monitored.

As of Thursday, the state has one positive case of the virus and one presumptive positive case that has not yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both patients were part of an overseas trip in mid-February along with a person in Massachusetts who also tested presumptive positive.

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The trip included a stop in Italy, which is dealing with an outbreak of the virus. Dr. Alexander-Scott noted that at the time of the trip, Italy was not on the list of areas of concern.

Raimondo called on all schools and organizations to postpone or cancel trips abroad until further notice.

The governor also asked that all state employees who traveled to affected areas in the past two weeks to stay at home for a period of 14 symptom-free days. She also advised local employers to set up a similar policy.

About 200 people who had direct contact with someone who tested positive for the virus are currently self-quarantining, according to Raimondo. Still, she insisted that the risk statewide remains low, saying, “we have to be vigilant, but we can’t panic.”

In addition to the two people who tested positive for the virus in Rhode Island, 17 people have tested negative while eight others are awaiting results.

Raimondo said more coronavirus test kits from the CDC are expected to arrive this week, and dedicated testing sites will be set up in “non-traditional spaces” around the state.

People not displaying symptoms should not be tested for coronavirus, and anyone experiencing symptoms is asked to first call their healthcare provider before rushing to the hospital or doctor’s office.

Alexander-Scott noted that having a respiratory illness does not necessarily mean a person is infected with coronavirus since many other illnesses like the flu and common cold are circulating in Rhode Island.

She also said the state is working closely with the CDC which has sent a team to work alongside the health department.

“A full team of officials, five persons from the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, are now embedded with us at the Rhode Island Department of Health and really build our capacity to respond to this emergency event,” Alexander-Scott explained.

Raimondo also announced that Saturday night’s Hasbro Heroes Ball at the R.I. Convention Center has been postponed and a makeup date has not yet been set.

Meanwhile, the city of Pawtucket said its St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held as planned on Saturday.

Anyone who has questions regarding the virus can call the R.I. Department of Health at (401) 222-8022 or visit the department’s website.

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