Rhode Island public health officials say they've identified the state's first and second presumptive positive cases of the coronavirus. The Rhode Island Department of Health announced Sunday that an unidentified man in his 40s and a teenager who both had traveled to Europe in mid-February tested positive for the virus.
The man's test result was announced Sunday afternoon, and the teenager's result was disclosed later in the day.
The first presumptive case is a man in his 40s, and the DOH reports he is currently being treated at an area hospital.
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The state health department says the second presumptive case is a teenager and she is currently at home with mild symptoms. It was not clear Sunday how many people she may have come into contact with since returning from Italy.
Health officials say a third person in Rhode Island who was also on the trip to Europe is being tested for COVID-19. The woman, in her 30s, is also at home with mild symptoms. Her test results are expected Monday.
“All three people went on the same trip to Italy,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott, Director of Health. “This is precisely why we are being so aggressive in identifying contacts, ensuring monitoring, and testing people who are symptomatic.”
The man had limited travel in the state since returning from Italy, officials say. Additionally, he did not return to his place of work since coming back from Italy. His immediate family members are in self-quarantine. No one in that home has developed symptoms of coronavirus and they are being monitored by nurses.
The DOH did not release further information out of respect for the individual and his family, but Saint Raphael Academy, which organized the trip to Italy in mid-February, released a statement confirming "a member of the community" had presumptive positive result to coronavirus.
"The administration has been in close contact with the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC)," the school said in a statement. "At their directive, the students and chaperones who were on the recent trip to Europe will be out of school until March 9."
All 38 of the people, including students and chaperones, who went on that trip are under self-quarantine and will be self-monitoring for 14 days at home with DOH supervision.
Saint Raphael Academy will be closed for the week, and the campus will undergo a deep sanitation. All after school programs and activities are cancelled, though students will take part in virtual classes.
Parents were concerned after the staff member at the Pawtucket high school was announced as the state's first presumptive positive case of Coronavirus.
“I can’t blame St. Rays because this is new, like a fire drill that no one has ever had to deal with,” said Suzanne Arena, whose daughter is a junior at St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket. “I got an email yesterday from St. Rays saying that the department of health said there was nothing... they don’t need to do any type of testing on anybody... so I was really surprised.”
Over the weekend, she says, though, other teams didn’t want to play St. Rays.
“Can you imagine going to your hockey game with your son, or cheer, and then hearing, ‘well we can’t play with you because somebody has been confirmed to have coronavirus at your school?’” she said.
Arena says the staffer is a dean at the school, and state health officials say about 40 people came into contact with him.
Right now they’re reaching out to those people and are telling them to self quarantine for 14 days.
“Fortunately this person had very limited travel in Rhode Island after returning from Europe, the patient has not returned to work after coming back from their trip,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott.
St. Rays also says students and chaperones who were on that recent trip to Europe will be out of school until March 9th, so they can self quarantine as well.
The school says in part: “It is important to note that this member of the community has not been at the Academy since returning from Europe, and none of his immediate family members are symptomatic at this time.”
The adult whose test results are still pending is a staff member at Achievement First Academy in Providence, which will be closed for two days, pending the results of the staff member’s tests.
The result is expected Monday, and the school is closing for an additional day to do environmental cleaning.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and Dr. Alexander-Scott held a press conference Sunday afternoon addressing the state’s first case of the disease, at which time Gov. Raimondo said there's "no need for panic."
“The Rhode Island Department of Health has been preparing for weeks to ensure that we have a structure in place to, to the best of our ability, limit or prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Rhode Island. We fully anticipated having a first case of COVID-19,” said Alexander-Scott.
“We are not seeing widespread community transmission in Rhode Island, and the general level of risk for Rhode Islanders is still low," said Alexander-Scott. "However, everyone in Rhode Island has a role to play in helping us prevent the spread of viruses, just like the flu. It is very important that people wash their hands regularly, cover their coughs and sneezes, and stay home if they are sick.”
In the past few weeks, Rhode Island State Health Laboratories have been developing the capacity to perform testing for COVID-19. All testing for COVID-19 was previously performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Each presumptive positive test result must be confirmed by the CDC Laboratories, the DOH said.
Gov. Raimondo says the general risk for Rhode Islanders is “low.” Gov. Raimondo adds that residents should not panic or be frightened of the disease and to spread the message to children.
“Kids have to be aware,” said Gov. Raimondo. “They have to be careful they have to be vigilant. We all have to be washing our hands, using hand sanitizer, being smart about it, but there is no need for panic.”
People are asked to get their flu shot, wash hands throughout the day with warm soap and water. If hand soap is not available, use alcohol-based hand gel. Cough or sneeze into the elbow, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and keep surfaces clean by using disinfectant.
Alexander-Scott says flu shots not only help decrease your risk of going to the hospital with the flu, but also protects the people around you with flu.
“Masks are not recommended for people in the general public if they are healthy,” said Alexander-Scott. “Masks are only good for health care providers and those who are ill.”
It is encouraged that individuals preserve masks to make available for health care providers and those who are sick.
If you have recently traveled to an area with widespread or ongoing spread of coronavirus and have symptoms of the disease (fever, cough, shortness of breath), contact your healthcare provider and call ahead before going to a healthcare facility.
There are more than 60 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States. The CDC confirmed it’s first fatal case in the U.S. in Washington state on Saturday. Around the world, there are over 80,000 confirmed cases of the disease.
“Every single one of us has to play a role in being prepared and in limiting the spread of this illness,” said Gov. Raimondo.