‘We’re not fighting each other, we’re fighting the virus:’ RIDOH medical director stresses importance of safety guidance


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Right now, Rhode Island Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald said “team virus” is beating “team human,” and that’s cause for great concern.

“We’re never going to beat team virus if we’re going to have one person infect two people,” McDonald said during his weekly interview with 12 News Now at 4 anchor Kim Kalunian. “We’ll never win that way.”

“Team virus isn’t confused, it just wants to find a host and cause infection,” he continued. “Team human, we’ve got to stop being confused and remember that this is a completely preventable disease.”

On Tuesday, the Rhode Island Department of Health told Target 12 that it is now “almost impossible” to identify where and when someone contracted COVID-19.

When asked how the state knows for sure that schools are not a vector of spread, he pointed to the data. He said when they conduct contact-tracing and case investigations within schools, they just aren’t seeing the same rate of spread they are at small social gatherings.

“We’re seeing cases in schools, we’re seeing a few outbreaks, but they’re being managed right now,” McDonald said, adding that, while there are outbreaks at schools, they aren’t widespread.

“I can’t tell you the exact moment you transmitted the virus to another person, but what I can tell you is when you look at indoor settings, they’re problematic,” he continued.

McDonald said it’s time for everyone to look at indoors a little differently, especially with the holidays coming up.

“Thanksgiving, last time I checked, is going to be happening indoors for most people,” he said. “Losing Thanksgiving won’t be so painful if, within six months, we are back to living how we want to be.”

While she has yet to make a decision, Gov. Gina Raimondo said she is considering a stay-at-home order for Thanksgiving. McDonald had previously said a stay-at-home order wouldn’t be the best solution, but with the number of cases and hospitalizations on the rise, he’s changing course.

“I think it’s time to look at what our options are that make the most sense,” McDonald said. “There’s quite frankly way too much movement going on and there’s way too many people living like they were in the past and it’s just not normal right now, we’ve got to be different.”

While he called the spike in cases and hospitalizations “sobering,” McDonald said he remains hopeful for the future, especially due to recent reports of a promising vaccine.

“We’re not fighting each other, we’re fighting the virus, and that is where we need to find success,” he said.

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