RI doctor ‘really concerned’ new COVID-19 variant could strain health care system


WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The new coronavirus variant has made it’s way to New England, and a local doctor says she’s worried the highly-contagious strain will lead to a significant overflow in the state’s hospitals.

Dr. Laura Forman, Kent Hospital’s chief of emergency medicine and medical director of the Cranston field hospital, tells 12 News that the variant could lead to a significant spike in hospitalizations.

Forman said they still have a high number of patients in her field hospital.

“We still have capacity to take care of patients, but we still need to utilize the field hospital to accommodate all the patients we have at this point,” she said. “But we are really concerned about what’s going to happen with this new variant, that’s been found as close as Massachusetts.”

She said because the variant will inevitably lead to an uptick in cases, she doesn’t expect the field hospital to be decommissioned any time soon.

“We are certainly utilizing it now and are anticipating cases will go up with the variant being more contagious,” she said.

She said front-line workers are worried that the variant will lead to a significant strain in the state’s health care system.

“There are a lot of variants of this coronavirus that appear to make it much more contagious,” Forman said. “We are really concerned those strains will be the predominant strains we are seeing over the next few months and that can overwhelm our capacity.”

But she said that’s not the only thing that makes her concerned. She also remains worried about pandemic fatigue and the behavior that comes along with it.

“We’ve seen a huge lapse,” she said. “The number of people traveling, the number of people eating inside unmasked with people outside of their pod, remains really high,” she said. “We’ve had people come in and say ‘I had a party last week with 10 people and six people tested positive.’ So we are certainly seeing people come in and say they know where this came from.”

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