PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — There’s been an increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in Rhode Island as of late, but Lifespan’s chief of emergency medicine says hospitals aren’t getting overwhelmed by an influx of patients.
The state has had between 85 and 100 total hospitalizations this week, which is the most since early to mid-March. But over the past three weeks, there hasn’t been more than five patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) or on ventilators, according to the latest data from the R.I. Department of Health.
Lifespan’s Dr. Jeremiah Schuur said Rhode Island Hospital has been seeing more COVID-19 patients, likely due to the omicron BA.2 variant. There’s a wide range of symptoms, the most common being a cough, sore throat, headache and feeling tired.
Schuur noted that people who end up in the hospital with COVID-19 tend to be older or have comorbidities.
“The new variant of COVID is more transmissible and is spreading in the community, so we’re seeing more cases in the emergency department,” he said. “The good news is we’re not really seeing a large number of hospitalizations, and very few patients who are sick enough to end up in an intensive care unit, so it’s a little bit of a mixed message.”
The Health Department reported 617 new infections on Friday, along with two additional deaths. Health officials also raised the COVID-19 community level for Bristol County to “medium,” bringing it in line with Rhode Island’s other four counties. Those levels are based on case and hospital admission rates, along with hospital capacity.
Schuur encouraged people to get a booster shot, if they haven’t already.
Story continues below video.
On Thursday, the FDA restricted the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to the risk of rare but serious blood clots, saying it should only be given to adults who specifically request it.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 Response Coordinator, said the clots only occur in about three out of every million cases and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still a good choice for anyone unable to get a different shot.
“The FDA is very clear: if you’re not going to get otherwise vaccinated, the J&J remains a very good option. It’s a highly effective vaccine,” he said.
“A bad side effect from this vaccine is far rarer than a bad side effect from taking a daily aspirin,” Jha added.
Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken told 12 News that a “small amount” of that vaccine is still being used in Rhode Island.
“Some people still request this vaccine,” he said Friday. “In all our guidance, we communicate the FDA’s previous language about an mRNA vaccine being preferential. We are updating our guidance to align with this updated language from the FDA.”