WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Even though COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island have plateaued, an infectious disease specialist at Kent Hospital warns that the state isn’t out of the woods just yet.
Dr. David Lowe said the increase in cases across the nation can mostly be attributed to overcrowding, and he’s worried that Rhode Island may see a second spike.
“If you just allow everybody to go to the beach and then go to work, disaster will occur, and that’s exactly what’s happening now in the southern and western states,” Lowe said.
Seven states – Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas – are reporting new all-time highs in terms of hospitalizations, with the numbers in Arizona and Texas doubling in recent weeks.
Gov. Gina Raimondo noted Wednesday that 11 of the 15 states where mask-wearing is required have seen a continued decline in cases, which includes Rhode Island. Despite this, she said now is not the time to get complacent.
“This can change quickly,” Raimondo said. “These states were in a plateau and in a number of weeks, they’re seeing their hospitals filled with COVID patients. I don’t want that to be us.”
“Even though it’s summer, even though we’re outside, even though our cases are reduced, even though we’re getting back to normal, it is more important than ever to follow these rules,” she continued.
Lowe disagrees with a phased approach to reopening, which several states, including Rhode Island, are currently in the process of. He said right now, only essential businesses should be open and people should stay home.
“If you look at China… they are very aggressive with testing and isolation and separation,” Lowe said. “If you do those things, we’ll bring it under control. If you don’t, you’ll have a continued problem.”
He also staunchly criticized President Donald Trump’s claim that the significant spike in cases is attributed to more testing, and the fact that the federal government will stop supporting testing sites beginning June 30.
“It’s absolute stupidity not to support testing,” Lowe said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he believes there could be a vaccine by the end of the year, but Lowe said he isn’t that optimistic.
Lowe believes it will be another year or so before an effective COVID-19 vaccine will be readily available. Until then, he said Rhode Islanders must remain vigilant to protect themselves from infection.
“You learn the rules of the germ and then you have to follow them. The germ doesn’t make any compromise,” Lowe said.