‘The pause isn’t popular,’ but it’s necessary to stop the spread, RIDOH medical director says


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While people don’t normally associate Thanksgiving with making sacrifices, Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald said this year Rhode Islanders need to do what’s best for the community.

“I think that’s what 2020 is all about,” McDonald said during his weekly interview with 12 News Now at 4 anchor Kim Kalunian. (Watch the full interview in the above video.)

McDonald said with hospitals nearing capacity, it’s important that Rhode Islanders listen to Gov. Gina Raimondo and limit their Thanksgiving gatherings to those within their immediate household.

“We don’t want to break our system,” he said, adding that the state’s field hospitals are slated to begin accepting patients next week.

In an effort to prevent Rhode Island from overtaxing its hospitals, Raimondo has ordered a two-week “pause” starting the Monday after Thanksgiving.

McDonald said while he knows Rhode Islanders aren’t pleased with the pause, it’s what has to be done to flatten the curve.

“The pause isn’t popular, but it’s all about how we can stop the spread right now,” McDonald said.

For those who plan on defying Raimondo’s orders and having guests over for the holiday, McDonald encouraged everyone to take the proper precautions.

He said make sure guests are wearing masks when they are not eating or drinking and to keep the windows cracked open to improve air circulation. He also encouraged hosts to have a generous supply of hand sanitizer.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently suggested reducing the incubation period for COVID-19 from 14 days to 7-10 days. McDonald said he’s keeping a close eye on that.

“I think the notion is that the vast majority of people who develop symptoms do so by day 10, so if we did a test at day 10, we could release people and make quarantining a lot more palatable,” McDonald said.

With the news of several promising coronavirus vaccines in the works, McDonald said he believes whichever vaccine ends up being federally approved should provide several years of immunity.

“Only time will tell, but that’s what I’m seeing so far,” he said.

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