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RI response to COVID-19 will sharpen as data grows, Raimondo says

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More testing is expected to result in more confirmed COVID-19 cases, which could help public health officials create a digital database to help inform a more surgical response to the viral assault on Rhode Island.

But Gov. Gina Raimondo said the state isn’t close to that goal yet, and has so far taken “a blunt approach” since the first case was confirmed one month ago.

Three new appointment-only drive-through testing sites at Rhode Island College, Community College of Rhode Island in Warwick, and the University of Rhode Island are expected to test about 300 symptomatic people a day.

During Wednesday’s news briefing, Raimondo said the state will reach the goal of testing 1,000 a day by Thursday, nearly doubling the current daily total.

Data will be analyzed electronically, according to the governor, allowing the R.I. Department of Health to trace direct contacts of the individuals with the virus, track their symptoms and isolate the ill and others in the neighborhoods where they live and traveled.

“I’d like to move us to a digital, electronic way of symptom tracking and contact tracing,” Raimondo said. “We’ll do quick contact tracking. Contact tracing will save lives.”

Raimondo reiterated her request for everyone in the state to write down the people they come into contact with “every single day,” and to keep the total down to a maximum of five.

Raimondo said more data will allow the state to replicate what’s been done in Singapore and South Korea. Both governments have been widely praised for their aggressive testing approaches that helped isolate infected residents quickly and slow community spread without locking down the entire population.

The technology the state will use is still being developed, but the governor acknowledged that cell phones and other personal devices will be a potential part of that.

“Trying to move everything we can to mobile phones as it relates to telehelp, appointments. tracking symptoms, tracking quarantines,” Raimond said.

She said the overall impact will be allowing parts of slumbering economy to wake up again.

“Once that’s in place, then we can re-open the economy in a new way with new regulations, confident that we can quickly pinpoint who’s sick and get them into isolation,” Raimondo said. “It’s just too dangerous to do that now.”

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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