PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — New COVID-19 data from the R.I. Department of Health shows the state is starting to see improvement in terms of its case numbers, but the effects of the omicron surge are still being felt.
Twelve more Rhode Islanders have died after contracting COVID-19, health officials said Tuesday, bringing the state’s death toll to 3,200.
Revised hospitalization data released Tuesday revealed the state topped numbers seen during the first winter surge in December 2020.
There were 556 COVID-19 patients in Rhode Island’s hospitals as of Wednesday, Jan. 12, according to the data, which is the most since the start of the pandemic. That’s since declined to 520 on Sunday, with 40 patients in the ICU and 30 on ventilators. (Hospitalization data has a two-day lag in reporting.)
With the exception of one day, the state has had more than 500 hospitalizations since Jan. 4, the revised data shows. (There were 496 on Jan. 8.)
Dr. James McDonald, the Health Department’s medical director, told 12 News that Rhode Island’s hospitals “are still under an amazing amount of stress.”
“The hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with people from elective surgery, they’re not overwhelmed with people from other things. It’s quite frankly the COVID that’s literally overwhelming our hospitals,” he explained.
In terms of cases, the three-day average of new infections was down to 2,908 on Tuesday, which is the lowest since the start of the month, according to the Health Department.
The rate used to gauge community transmission of the virus also fell below 3,000 for the first time in two weeks. As of Tuesday, it stood at 2,881 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days.
McDonald said that while Rhode Island is heading in the right direction, he feels it’s premature to say the state is past the current peak.
“The next few weeks are going to be very telling for us,” McDonald added.
On Tuesday, the federal government launched a new website where people can request free at-home COVID-19 tests through the mail.
There are several things Rhode Islanders can do to help lower infection rates, according to McDonald.
“If you’re going to be indoors with anyone outside of your home, wear a high-quality mask as often as you can,” McDonald said. “If you see me out in town, I’m sporting an N95 or a KN95.”
McDonald said booster shots are also needed to fight the omicron variant, noting that only about 32% of eligible Rhode Islanders have received one so far.