PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — We didn’t know it at the time, but Feb. 27 was a milestone in Rhode Island.
According to the R.I. Department of Health, Feb. 27 was the day Rhode Island’s first coronavirus patient was admitted to a hospital. In the three-and-a-half months since, roughly 1,800 others have also been hospitalized with COVID-19. About 1,400 of them have been discharged; 277 have died.
Those are just a few of the numbers that help illustrate Rhode Island’s experience amid the worst global pandemic in a century. Throughout the crisis, Target 12’s Eli Sherman has maintained a continuously updated WPRI.com COVID-19 data page where you can review the data and judge the situation for yourself.
Here is a quick snapshot of where the public health crisis stands today in Rhode Island, featuring selected charts and short video explanations from Eli Sherman and Ted Nesi.
Like most of the country, Rhode Island struggled to do enough coronavirus testing in March. But that changed quickly in early April with the launch of CVS Health’s rapid-testing site in the Twin River Casino parking lot. New cases rose throughout the month, peaking on April 23, when 422 positive cases were identified in a single day.
Today that number is far lower, with an average of 78 new cases identified a day for the past week. And as the blue line in the above chart shows, the positivity rate — the share of each day’s tests that came back positive — has been below 4% throughout the month of June so far, well under the 10% threshold many experts have cited as a benchmark.
In all, nearly 16,000 Rhode Islanders have tested positive for the virus since March 1.
One of the most important metrics watched by state and health officials is the daily number of coronavirus patients newly admitted to the hospital. Not only is this a proxy for how many severe cases the state has, but it’s also a way to judge whether hospital capacity could become a problem.
In Rhode Island, COVID-19 hospital admissions rose steadily throughout the month of April. The number peaked on May 1 — two months after the state had announced its first coronavirus case — when 51 COVID-19 patients were admitted in a single day. The number has fallen sharply since then: over the last week, an average of 10 COVID-19 patients were admitted per day.
Rhode Island’s coronavirus death toll stands at 823 as of June 11. While many of those who have died after contracting COVID-19 likely had other underlying health conditions, the state counts everyone who tested positive for the disease either before or after they died.
Deaths remained stubbornly high in Rhode Island for weeks, with roughly 100 COVID-19 patients passing away every week from mid-April through late May. That pace appears to be slowing down in June, but there is reason for caution — since deaths are sometimes reported well after the day the person actually succumbed, it’s possible the numbers for recent days will be revised upward.
While elderly Rhode Islanders do not account for a majority of the state’s coronavirus cases, they make up the lion’s share of those who have died after contracting COVID-19, reinforcing the risk the disease poses to senior citizens. A majority of all deaths have been linked to nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, as well.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook