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RI among states with highest rates of COVID-19 testing, deaths

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – After lagging behind other New England states for weeks, Rhode Island has rapidly become a leader in both testing and deaths per capita, according to a Target 12 analysis.

As of Monday, Rhode Island had tested 21 of every 1,000 Rhode Islanders, representing the most among all New England states and third most in the country behind New York and Louisiana, according to data compiled by The COVID Tracking Project.

That marks a major leap forward for Rhode Island, which less than two weeks ago ranked last among New England states and 22nd in the nation. The state has since vastly expanded its testing capabilities – averaging more than 2,000 per day last week, according to Gov. Gina Raimondo.

“I’m not sure we need to be doing very many more tests a day than we are now,” Raimondo said during her daily briefing Tuesday, adding that it would be ideal to get to 3,000 tests per day.

On a less positive note, Rhode Island is also among the states with the highest rates of COVID-19 related deaths, reporting nearly seven deaths for every 100,000 residents as of Monday.

The relatively high rate puts Rhode Island eighth in the nation (including Washington, D.C.), and third in New England behind Connecticut (17 deaths per 100,000 people) and Massachusetts (12 deaths per 100,000 people), according to an analysis of data compiled by

Vermont reports about five deaths per 100,000 residents and New Hampshire and Maine have fewer than two deaths for every 100,000 residents, respectively. New York leads the nation in deaths with nearly 66 deaths for every 100,000 residents, according to the analysis.

Rhode Island ranking among the states with the highest rates of death is likewise a major shift in recent weeks, as it was among a dwindling number of states with no deaths at all less than three weeks ago. But since the governor announced the state’s first two deaths on March 28, the state has reported at least one death every day – averaging more than four per day.

Raimondo on Saturday said the state’s higher percentage of older adults — coupled with the fact that it’s one of the most densely populated states in the country — makes fighting the disease especially challenging.

The majority of the 80 deaths reported so far in Rhode Island have happened in nursing homes and the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per capita is currently in North Providence, where a cluster of residents have contracted the disease and died at Golden Crest Nursing Centre.

“The fight is hard for us,” Raimondo said. “Seniors are the most vulnerable and have the highest risk of a worse outcome — and we’re densely populated.”

Eli Sherman ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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