BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island leaders are trying to make sure anyone who wants a COVID-19 test can get one as cases rise with the holidays approaching.
Two new testing sites opened Wednesday to help keep up with the demand: one at the former Benny’s on Metacom Avenue in Bristol, and the other at 22 Brown and Howard Wharf in Newport.
Gov. Dan McKee’s office said the state opened about 1,000 rapid test appointments at those sites for people who don’t have symptoms, which will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“I’m going to be traveling and I want to make sure that I’m being safe with my family and people that I run into,” Ray Frizzell said.
The testing centers will be open on Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
“Because I’m in front of a lot of people on a regular basis, I try my best to be precautionary more so than reactive to COVID, so I like being tested every couple of weeks,” Timothy Pray explained.
Appointments can be made through the state’s online portal.
It’s part of an effort by the McKee administration to make rapid tests more available for those who want or need one as the state deals with a backlog of PCR tests that have maxed out the state’s lab capacity.
McKee said the state is working to onboard another lab to help reduce the turnaround time for test results.
“We want to make sure testing is as available and as accessible as possible ahead of the holidays and in light of all things omicron,” said Tom McCarthy, the head of the state’s COVID-19 response.
On Monday, omicron became the dominant COVID-19 strain in the U.S., though McCarthy said it is not yet at that level in Rhode Island. He noted that layering multiple mitigation efforts — vaccination, boosters, testing, masks, etc. — can help protect people ahead of the holidays.
Data released Wednesday showed the state has so far identified just three infections from the omicron variant. That is only a sample size, however, since the state screens only a portion of the new cases using genomic sequencing to screen for variants.
The Health Department reported 1,148 new positive cases overall on Wednesday and nine additional deaths.
COVID-19 hospitalizations declined slightly to 276, with 39 patients in the intensive care unit and 27 on ventilators, according to the data.