RI boosts availability of rapid COVID-19 testing for holidays; 2,400 new cases

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With more Rhode Islanders looking to get tested for the coronavirus before traveling and gathering for the holidays, the state is taking steps to increase its capacity.

The R.I. Department of Health announced that a rapid testing site opened Monday at the Chapel View Shopping Center in Cranston. This clinic will operate seven days a week and by appointment only.

The Health Department said they’ll also have rapid testing for asymptomatic individuals at six existing sites:

  • Barrington Shopping Center
  • Blackstone Valley Community Health
  • Cranston Parkade storefront
  • Rhode Island Convention Center ticket booth
  • Smithfield VFW
  • Warwick Shopping Plaza

Appointments for rapid testing are needed there as well. A spokesperson for the Health Department said these sites will primarily be offering rapid tests, however, all K-12 testing will still be PCR and symptomatic individuals who get negative rapid tests will also get PCR tests.

The state plans to open more rapid testing sites in the coming weeks, according to health officials. The hope, they said, is that increasing the availability of rapid testing will reduce the turnaround times for PCR test results.

There have been persistent reports of long waits to both get a PCR test and get results back, especially with the recent increase in demand.

Last week, the state received 100,000 at-home test kits to distribute to people in the hardest-hit cities and towns.

Testing is also available at some respiratory clinics and retail pharmacies.

Additionally, the Health Department is looking to improve access to the COVID-19 vaccine in advance of the holidays. The state-run sites in Cranston and East Providence, which were slated to close, will remain open at least through the end of the month. A spokesperson for the city of East Providence said clinics will be held at the senior center until at least the end of February.

Health officials say a booster dose of the vaccine increases protection against the omicron variant of the virus, and those are now available to everyone 16 and older in Rhode Island.

Those who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can get a booster six months after completing their primary series, while those who got Johnson & Johnson are eligible two months after that shot.

The state has been seeing a spike in new cases as of late, and new policies seeking to address that went into effect on Monday. Gov. Dan McKee said the goal of the policies is to reduce the spread of the virus and the strain on hospitals while limiting the impact on small businesses.

On Monday, the Health Department reported 2,402 new infections since data was last released on Friday and added another 1,560 cases to the daily totals prior to that.

Six more Rhode Islanders have died after contracting COVID-19, health officials disclosed, bringing the state within two deaths of 3,000 total since the start of the pandemic.

The data also shows that hospitalizations have been coming down from a recent high of 293 on Dec. 13. As of Saturday, there were 230 COVID-19 patients in Rhode Island’s hospital system, with 36 patients in in the intensive care unit and 26 on ventilators. (Hospital data has a two-day lag.)

McKee has scheduled a media availability for 2 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the issues of the day and take questions. 12 News plans to stream the event live right here on WPRI.com.

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