Health Department employee diagnosed with COVID-19 in RI

RI Department of Health_183654

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A R.I. Department of Health employee has tested positive for COVID-19, but state officials said they don’t believe the person exposed anyone else in the agency to the illness.

Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken confirmed Friday his colleague had tested positive for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a disease that’s killed nearly 25,000 people worldwide. The individual was exposed through domestic travel to another state, he added.

“We have completed thorough contract tracing on this individual and have determined that there were no exposures of concern in the building,” Wendelken wrote in an email. “There isn’t believed to be any risk of transmission to anyone in the building from this case.”

The employee is the latest in a growing number of public officials to contract the disease in Rhode Island, where 165 people had been diagnosed with the illness as of Thursday. The Health Department is one of the state’s front line agencies working in response to the outbreak, but Wendelken said this employee was not involved in that effort.

“I’m limited in what I can share about this person, but I can say that they were not involved in the COVID-19 response,” he wrote.

Eli Sherman ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi ( is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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