PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A new analysis from Target 12 shows average daily coronavirus testing in Rhode Island is nearly twice as high as the same time last year.
In the last few weeks, however, K-12 students, along with college students, have gone back to school. Some universities, like Brown, are mandating regular testing for students, faculty and staff, even if fully vaccinated.
Additionally, Brown undergraduate students are required to be tested twice a week, or once every four days.
Gov. Dan McKee acknowledged testing “glitches” at this week’s COVID-19 briefing. When asked about the delayed PCR results, he said the state will continue to improve its testing strategy over time, with the goal of keeping kids in the classroom.
“And if there’s a situation where they’re out of the classroom because they’re waiting on tests, we need to address that,” McKee told reporters Thursday.
As of Sept. 14, Rhode Island is averaging about 14,500 new tests per day, representing a roughly 150% increase compared to Aug. 1 when the state averaged about 5,700 per day. Average daily testing is also nearly twice as high as the same time last year.
For the week of Aug. 29 to Sep. 4, R.I. Department of Health spokesperson Joseph Wendelken says 26,800 appointments were booked through the state-run sites, an average of 3,829 per day.
For the week of Sep. 7 to Sep. 13 (state-run sites were closed on Labor Day), 32,585 appointments were booked for an average of 4,655 tests per day.
In other words, the state saw demand for testing increase by 21.6%, according to Wendelken.
Even with an increase in demand for testing, Wendelken said the state has still had additional capacity for testing.
On average, a little more than half of our current test scheduling capacity for each day is being used, he said. On Tuesday, for example, Wendelken noted that 63% of all general public appointments were filled, while just 55% of all K-12 appointments for that day were filled.
Wendelken also pointed out the overall average appointment capacity for general public and K-12 testing combined is 7,417 per day. General public sites alone can administer 5,419 per day, while K-12 sites alone can do 1,977 per day.
Currently, there are 20 state-run testing locations across Rhode Island and more than a dozen mobile testing events scheduled each week, according to Wendelken.
The Health Department says making a appointment ahead of time can reduce long lines and crowding at testing sites. Visit portal.ri.gov or call (401) 222-8022 to book a time slot.
Appointments are not required at state-run mobile testing sites.
State-run testing sites have a system in place to prioritize pre-K-12 and child care students, teachers, and staff.
On Thursday, more than 17,200 tests were administered in the state, according to data released Friday by the Health Department.
Health officials reported 343 new positive cases on Friday, along with two more COVID-19-related deaths.
Hospitalizations fell to 117, the data shows, with 22 patients in the intensive care unit and 12 on ventilators.
What to expect when scheduling a COVID-19 test:
- After you log in or create an account on portal.ri.gov, select “Schedule COVID-19 test.”
- Next, you’ll be asked to select who you want to schedule the test for.
- If this is your first time using your account to schedule a test for your child, select “new dependent” so you can add their information into your account.
- If you have used your account to schedule a test for your child before, you will see their name listed as an option.
- If you need to schedule a COVID-19 test for multiple people, including yourself or multiple dependents under the age of 16, you can schedule everyone at the same time. You may get asked the same question multiple times so that you can provide information that may be different for each person, like whether they have symptoms or if they’ve been identified as a close contact.
- Before you select the date and location of your appointment, you will be asked whether you want to schedule your child for a K-12 appointment or a general public appointment. Tests collected at K-12 appointments are marked with a green sticker to be prioritized when they arrive at the lab.
Wendelken said there are two vendors who operate the state-run sites, but the department is not seeing a discrepancy in test result turnaround times between the two vendors.
“Some test results may be slightly delayed when the volume at state-run COVID-19 test sites increases, like before or after a holiday, after test sites are closed, or when demand for testing is high,” Wendelken wrote in an email to 12 News.
He noted that people may see a delay in accessing results if incorrect information is entered into the scheduling portal. People are encouraged to reach out to the Health Department to get test results sent via email if they cannot be accessed through the online portal.
“Even though their test has been resulted within the 48-hour window, the person is experiencing a delay in receiving their result,” Wendelken said.
Parents continue to be advised to screen their children for symptoms of COVID-19, and if they experience any, keep them home or isolated and get them tested.
“Thus far this school year, most of the cases appear to be in people getting COVID-19 out in the community and then bringing it into schools,” Wendelken added. “Screening, testing, and isolation/quarantine are important to limit the spread and even more disruption once inside schools.”
The Health Department is also encouraging school nurses to assess students who show or report a symptom based upon their documented medical history in an effort to keep kids out of quarantine or isolation unless it is necessary.
Eli Sherman contributed to this story.