Inaccurate, ‘dangerous’ rumors about Kent Hospital spreading on social media, CEO warns


WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The head of Rhode Island’s second largest hospital group is warning Rhode Islanders against believing social media accounts about how Kent Hospital has allegedly handled a local case of coronavirus.

In a statement, Care New England President and CEO Jim Fanale didn’t spell out what commenters are saying on Facebook and other platforms, but described the posts as “not accurate and in fact, dangerous.”

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The R.I. Department of Health on Tuesday has refused to say what hospital is currently taking care of Rhode Island’s first presumptive COVID-19 case, a man in his mid-40s who took part in a St. Raphael Academy visit to Italy last month.

“While we are unable to comment on specific patient care,” Fanale said, “if and when a patient were to present at Kent Hospital with COVID-19 symptoms, our team would appropriately isolate the patient and work with public health officials on testing.”

“Kent Hospital does not control the testing process and therefore must follow all CDC and Rhode Island Department of Health guidelines,” he said. “We will continue to take care of all patients who arrive seeking our help.”

Fanale went on to say Kent’s employees have been “fully trained” on how they should handle patients and are “following standard CDC protocols for determination of exposure and surveillance.”

The availability of accurate and timely information relating to the coronavirus outbreak has been an issue at times in recent days. The East Providence Post published a story Saturday confirming the state’s first presumptive case of the virus, but was asked to remove most of the details by the Department of Health and city officials.

Also on Tuesday night, two members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation expressed rising frustration with federal leaders’ handling of the outbreak.

Democratic Congressman David Cicilline sent a letter to the head of the CDC questioning why states are not being alerted when travelers return from countries other than China that are experiencing outbreaks, noting that the virus was apparently brought to Rhode Island from Italy.

“COVID-19 has now spread to 58 countries and it will likely continue to appear in more countries in the weeks and months ahead,” he wrote. “Given the seriousness and rapid pace of this outbreak, I strongly urge the CDC to provide notifications to state agencies when travelers arrive in the U.S. from other countries with significant or elevated reports of incidents of COVID-19.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed was among the senators who attended a meeting Tuesday afternoon on Capitol Hill with Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the Trump administration’s response to the epidemic.

“The vice president didn’t provide a lot of concrete answers in the meeting,” Reed said. “But my message remains: we need to let science and public health experts — not political considerations — guide decisions and shape the response.”

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