Pandemic death toll tops 1,500 in RI; 1,216 new infections reported


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The state of Rhode Island reached a grim milestone on Friday as it continues to combat a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic.

Eleven more people in the state have died after contracting the virus, according to the R.I. Department of Health, bringing the reported death toll to 1,509.

Health officials also announced 1,216 new infections on Friday.

With more than 18,300 tests administered the previous day — the most since Nov. 25 — the daily positivity rate came out to 6.6%. That rate has been trending downward since reaching a high of 10.7% this past Monday.

In addition to the 1,216 infections reported Friday, the Health Department also added 355 newly disclosed cases to prior-day totals over the past two weeks.

The Health Department didn’t update its hospitalization data on Friday. Spokesperson Joseph Wendelken told 12 News the hospitalization data set is undergoing maintenance and will next be updated on Monday.

As of midday Thursday, there were 466 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, of which 48 were in intensive care and 25 were on ventilators.

On Thursday, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced she’s extending the statewide “pause” for an additional week. On Monday, Dec. 21, some of the restrictions will remain in place while others will be lifted, she said. Notably, gyms and other fitness centers will be able to reopen at that time and the indoor dining capacity at restaurants will be expanded.

Rhode Island’s extended pause: Here’s what you need to know »

In the meantime, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration appears to be getting close to clearing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use after a federal advisory panel gave its approval.

During the governor’s briefing on Thursday, Dr. Philip Chan, a consultant medical director with the R.I. Department of Health, laid out the anticipated timeline for vaccine distribution in the state, which is split into four phases.

High-risk health care workers, first responders, and nursing home residents will be the first to get immunized, according to Dr. Chan, and the state hopes to have the vaccine available to all Rhode Islanders by June.

As COVID vaccines near federal approval, RI prepares to launch distribution plan »

Raimondo plans to hold her next briefing at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17. The following week, it will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 22.

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