Nursery school employee is 3rd ‘presumptive’ coronavirus case in RI


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Another Rhode Islander has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, state health officials announced Friday evening, and she is the first local case not tied to a recent St. Raphael Academy trip overseas.

The woman in her 60s is considered a “presumptive positive” case of the virus, meaning her test results have not yet been confirmed by the CDC. The two previously announced cases both involved individuals who participated in the St. Raphael trip to Italy, a country that has been hit hard by the virus.

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The R.I. Department of Health said the woman was tested because she was experiencing symptoms after having direct, face-to-face contact with a person who is a confirmed COVID-19 patient while in New York late last month. She’s now at home with mild symptoms.

The woman is an employee at Smithfield Avenue Nursery School, a preschool and kindergarten in Pawtucket. The Health Department says it’s reaching out to families with ties to the school and they are being “instructed to self-quarantine.” Early studies have suggested the virus is less deadly to children than adults.

“People who had contact with an asymptomatic person who is now self-quarantining (but does not have COVID-19) are considered low risk,” Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said in a statement. “In other words, a contact of a contact is considered low risk.”

As of Friday evening, Rhode Island’s State Health Laboratories have tested 33 people for COVID-19: three tested positive, 17 tested negative, and 13 are awaiting test results. Roughly 210 people are currently supposed to be on self-quarantine due to direct contact with a COVID-19 patient. (People who aren’t showing symptoms are not being tested, based on CDC guidance.)

Earlier in the day, the Health Department asked the leaders of all Rhode Island nursing homes to take a number of steps to protect residents, including restricting visitor hours and barring sick people from their facilities. A growing number of events are being canceled around the state.

Separately on Friday, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island announced that it will waive all costs for its members if they seek diagnostic testing for COVID-19. All current testing is being done by the state health labs and paid for by the state, but private labs may soon offer their own approved test for the virus.

So far Rhode Island has received $500,000 from the federal government to help defray the cost of coronavirus response. Congress this week approved roughly $8 billion in additional federal funding to deal with the outbreak nationwide.

On Saturday, the Rhode Island Department of Health strongly urged Rhode Islanders to take a number of measures to prevent the spread of viruses.

“We know we will have community transmission of COVID-19 in Rhode Island at some point. It is critical that people stay home if they are sick or have been directed to stay home, and it is critical that we all do things like wash our hands regularly and avoid close personal contact, like handshakes, in public,” Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said.

According to the state health department, 12 tests for COVID-19 are pending, 30 tests came back negative, and approximately 250 people are currently under self-quarantine in Rhode Island.

Anyone who has questions regarding the virus can call the R.I. Department of Health at (401) 222-8022 or visit the department’s website.

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