New coronavirus task force aimed at protecting RI from outbreak


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has assembled a task force dedicated to monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and protecting Rhode Islanders from the potentially deadly illness.

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for RIDOH, tells Eyewitness News the group is made up of health department staff who will work with the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, as well as local hospitals and infectious disease physicians.

Wendelken said the task force has been working behind the scenes for weeks now to develop a plan to keep the state ahead of the curve when it comes to prevention.

“We’re making sure that they understand the process and the protocol to report cases, should they feel the need, based on the evaluation guidelines that they’re getting from the state health department,” Wendelken said.

A spokesperson for T.F. Green International Airport recently told Eyewitness News no health screenings are currently occurring at the airport at this time, however, they are on standby.

Wendelken said people are only being screened based on their travel history and there is no need to get tested for the virus at this time.

The pneumonia-like virus, believed to have originated from Wuhan, China, has killed hundreds of people over the past few weeks, forcing the country to put millions of people on lockdown.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported five confirmed cases of coronavirus nationwide.

A plane of more than 200 Americans returning from China touched down in California Wednesday morning. All of those passengers are currently being quarantined at the March Air Reserve Base, where they will be monitored for signs of the virus for three days before being released.

The CDC reports that the risk of coronavirus in the United States remains low at this time.

In the meantime, Wendelken said the best way Rhode Islanders can protect themselves is by continuing to take precautions against the flu, which has been deemed widespread in Rhode Island.

Flu Resource Guide: Symptoms, preventative actions and more »

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