Current R.I. COVID-19 guidance for businesses will be extended until mid-Feb.

Updated at 3:53 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2021

CASES OF COVID-19 in the state increased by 823 on Tuesday. / COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
CASES OF COVID-19 in the state increased by 823 on Tuesday. / COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

PROVIDENCE – In her first press conference in Rhode Island since the New Year, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo said Wednesday the state’s metrics were improving on COVID-19, particularly with the percentage of tests positive for the past week.

The weekly positive rate was 6.6% for the week, a decline from 7.4% one week prior.

The update comes as cases of COVID-19 in Rhode Island increased by 823 on Tuesday, with 17 more deaths, the R.I. Department of Health said Wednesday.

Rhode Island should stay the course, Raimondo said, explaining that she would extend the state’s current guidance on reopening of businesses and other public health requirements until mid-February.

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Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in the state totaled 402, level with one day prior. Of those hospitalized, 49 were in an intensive care unit, a decline from 53 one day prior, and 35 were on a ventilator, a rise of one day to day.

Deaths in the state due to the virus totaled 1,987, on pace to break 2,000 this week at the current rate.

Cases of the virus in Rhode Island have totaled 102,485 to date, a rise of 1,092 from figures reported Tuesday, accounting for the day-to-day increase, as well as data revisions for previous days.

There were 16,521 tests processed in the state Tuesday, with an overall positive rate of 5%. When excluding both repeat positive and repeat negative test results, the positive rate was 20.7%.

There have been 2.2 million tests administered in the state to date to 684,208 individuals.

The health department also said 38,197 first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date, as well as 7,446 second doses.

A seamless transition to the administration of now-Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee is planned and Raimondo said her state team is working with his on a daily basis.

She asked him, and he agreed, she said, to keep the current COVID-19 response team in place.

“Our response around testing and contact tracing and vaccines and the use of the National Guard, the field hospitals, will remain intact. This will be a seamless transition.”

In providing an update on the COVID-19 data and response, Raimondo said that due to the metrics in recent days and weeks, she will extend the current response. In addition to extending the current level of restrictions on businesses to mid-February, she said she would make a decision next week relating specifically to youth sports and school sports. She said she wants to find a way to make some changes that would allow kids to play sports.

“We are on a good path. Hospitalizations are stabilizing. Test positives are coming down,” she said. “Where do we go from here? Stay the course. Stay the course.”

R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said the state is using the proper priorities and framework for vaccine distribution, but its ability to vaccinate people is determined by how much vaccines it receives. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday changed its guidelines to include people aged 65 and above in phase one, but Alexander-Scott said the state is only getting 14,000 shots a week. Rhode Island has 190,000 people aged 65 and older. “It’s a challenge to move any faster than we are doing now. We just don’t have the vaccine supply to do that now.”
In other announcements:
  • Going forward, the state will have a weekly dedicated COVID-19 public briefing on Thursdays. But the R.I. Department of Health also will begin having a weekly, dedicated briefing focusing on vaccine distribution.
  • The state no longer has any backlog in contact tracing, including for the K-12 systems. Quarantine and isolation support is working well, the governor said.
  • The COVID-19 virus has infected more than 100,000 Rhode Islanders and killed almost 2,000 people in the state, she said.
  • Rhode Island continues to lead the nation in testing. The state has performed almost 2.2 million tests, the governor said. Last week, more than 100,000 people in Rhode Island were tested.
  • New hospitalizations, on a weekly basis, are decreasing. The last week’s number was the lowest since November.
  • The pace of vaccines should increase in the coming weeks and months as the pace of manufacturing accelerates. Almost 40,000 people in the state have received at least the first shot of the two-dose regimen for the two available vaccines. “Once we are at a place where everyone who is at high risk is vaccinated — everyone in our nursing homes, all health care workers, everyone over a certain age — we have much more flexibility on our ability to continue to open the economy without worrying that our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Raimondo said.

This story has been updated to include details from the governor’s press conference.

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