By: Eileen Cooney ‘23
Reported COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island, and specifically in the Providence area, are on the rise. On Oct. 21, the Rhode Island Department of Health reported 470 new cases of the virus, topping the single-day record set back in April during the peak of the virus, and putting the seven-day positivity rate at 2.0%, the highest it has been in months.
The increase in cases have sparked a growing concern among health officials, politicians, and citizens about the fears of the dreaded “second-wave” that has already begun in Europe. Governor Gina Raimondo, in her press conference given on Oct. 21, said that Rhode Island is not at the threshold of a second wave just yet, but that the trends in the data certainly indicate that the state is headed in that direction.
She urged citizens to think of their fellow Rhode Islanders, and to follow mask-wearing and social distancing protocols so that everybody can get back to work and back to their lives sooner. “We are not in a good place,” she said, emphasizing that people’s actions can again control and flatten the curve.
Her pleas to the general public come in the wake of backlash to her announcement last week that Rhode Island would stay in Phase 3 until there is a widely available vaccine. In Phase 3, the indoor and outdoor gathering limit is 15 people, mask-wearing is mandated, and proper social distancing protocols must be followed. Many small-business owners said this is a blow to their already barely surviving businesses. In response, Raimondo says that she would like to incrementally relax restrictions, but the recent exponential surge in cases prevents her from doing so immediately.
There has also been concern about whether schools are going to become breeding grounds for the virus and if they will further perpetuate spread across communities. William M. Davies, Jr. Career and Technical High School in Lincoln, RI recently released a report with evidence that could indicate community spread at the high school.
Raimondo has said that there is still clear evidence that schools are not a significant source for community transmission, and she says that the risks of not having kids in school are far worse because schools provide essential services, such as meal support and mental health counseling, to many kids who would otherwise not receive them. Raimondo says the effects of children not receiving these services has been and will continue to be extremely detrimental if schools were to close.
With the holidays approaching, Raimondo has voiced her concerns about an even more drastic rise in cases. She is worried about Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all occurring in close succession. Raimondo says she understands that people feel isolated and are tired of living with the virus, but she asked them to think about others before not abiding by state regulations concerning COVID-19.
Rhode Island is not alone in dealing with this new surge of cases, as the United States reported a record-number of new coronavirus cases on Oct. 23, and six states topped daily death records. Many leading health officials have said that all of this data indicates that the U.S. is headed for a dark winter.