PROVIDENCE, R.I., -- On both Wednesday and Thursday of last week Rhode Island set a new record for the total number of positive Coronavirus cases. The Rhode Island Department of Health reported that on Wednesday 470 Rhode Islanders tested positive for COVID-19 and 449 Rhode Islanders tested positive on Thursday. The previous highest number of cases was 412 on April 23.
According to Joseph Wendelken, spokesperson for the state Department of Health, the increase in positive cases statewide can be partly attributed to an increase in testing. On Wednesday, Rhode Island performed 17,652 tests and had a 2.7 percent positivity rate compared to 2,948 tests performed on April 23 and a 14 percent positivity rate. However, Wendelken did assert that the state’s current numbers were far too high, claiming, “We are not on the right trajectory.”
The statewide increase in COVID-19 cases comes following outbreaks amongst college students on campuses such as Providence College and The University of Rhode Island. Since October 15, eight COVID-19 cases have been found amongst the Rhode Island College campus community bringing the current total number of positive cases from August 31 to 28. Out of the 28 positive cases, four have been amongst residential students and 24 amongst off-campus or commuter students.
Rhode Island College Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing, John Taraborelli, told The Anchor that, “In the event of an outbreak on campus, RIC will follow the guidance and processes outlined by the Rhode Island Department of Health for all 11 colleges and universities within the state. This playbook includes extensive plans for full or partial closures, metrics and timelines for reopening and guidance on outbreak management resources such as quarantine, isolation, contact tracing, testing, mental health support for students in quarantine and more.”
The Rhode Island Department of Health requires that all students, faculty and staff wear face masks while on campus and practice social distancing. The Department of Health playbook advises that any symptomatic student who does not meet the CDC definition of a probable case may online return to campus without a negative test result if they have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication. Symptomatic individuals who do test positive for COVID-19 may only return to campus should they produce a negative test result or meet the CDC guidelines for the total isolation period. Asymptomatic students who test positive for COVID-19 may return to campus following 10 days after their test without symptoms.
Taraborelli also said that housekeeping staff has adopted “a rigorous schedule of cleaning and sanitizing all common spaces on campus, especially high-touch surfaces such as door handles, light switches, and computer keyboards.”
Student-athletes and resident assistants are also required to undergo asymptomatic testing as per their contacts through a third-party medical service provider. All residential students and athletes are also required to undergo low-symptomatic testing which is provided by Student Health Services. All other students should refer to their medical providers for symptomatic testing.
Asymptomatic testing is also provided in the Student Union every Tuesday and Friday. Testing is free for all students, faculty and staff yet testing does prioritize faculty and staff in need of testing for their work.
For more information on RIC’s COVID-19 plan please visit www.ric.edu/COVID19