Cases Continue to Climb: A summary of the governor’s December 3 press conference

“No good news in this data, nothing good to share,” said Governor Raimondo today at the start of her weekly COVID press conference. 

COVID continues to surge across the Ocean State. DOH reports 1,330 new COVID cases as of 1pm this afternoon with an overall test positive rate of 8%. State officials tallied nine new deaths, with ages ranging from their 60s to their 90s. That brings the total number of deaths in the state to an even 1,400. There are 409 people hospitalized for reasons associated with the virus, and the state’s field hospitals in Cranston and Providence are open for business and taking in dozens of new patients. Forty-five people are in the ICU, and 31 people are on ventilators. 

Rhode Island is on day four of what state leaders are calling a pause with restrictions in place on some businesses such as gyms and bars. The governor said she hoped this would encourage people to stay at home and hunker down, as a vaccine for general distribution is still months away. Hospitals have been hit hard with a surge of COVID patients and are handling the overflow by sending noncritical ones to both field hospital sites. According to early data from Thanksgiving weekend, travel declined 10%, double the decline in 2019. The governor said early data suggested that Rhode Islanders were listening and staying home more. 

“Quality at the field hospital is about as good as it gets,” said Raimondo. She also put out a call for retired, underemployed, unemployed healthcare works to volunteer for staffing positions. “Facilities are only as good as the people who staff them,” said the governor. Both field hospitals contain 900 extra COVID beds, and if the healthcare system in Rhode Island has to use them, the person power to staff them to effective ratios does not currently exist. At the Cranston field hospital site in the old Citizens Bank building, The ProJo reported earlier this week the staffing ratio at the facility would be one doctor for every 50 patients, and one nurse for every 25, ratios experts and critics have cited as well below staffing standards not during a pandemic.

While the governor’s stated goal is not to fill the field hospitals to capacity, DOH has begun issuing temporary licenses to volunteering healthcare workers and soon-to-graduate nursing students. Skillsforri.com has a list of available staffing positions, as well as the websites for LifeSpan and CareNewEngland.

“I’m asking you to suit up and help us out,” said Raimondo. 

Last week state leaders announced an expanded testing regime throughout the state. In particular, they announced the Dunkin Donuts Center would be used for a new rapid-test called the BinaxNow test. Dr. Alexander-Scott demonstrated the test, which involves swabbing the insides of both nostrils and then using a chemical solution to administer the actual test. Results follow within 15 minutes. DOH said today the current capacity for these new tests is 500 per day, and it will be up to 2,500 a day by Monday or later next week.

Some good news for the Ocean State: The vaccine may start rolling out soon. Governor Raimondo believes that by mid-month, Rhode Island will receive limited doses of the vaccine. First, 10,000 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer, and then in following weeks 19,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine. State officials are always working on a distribution plan, including messaging. The vaccines have different needs, are stored and handled at radically different temperatures. For vaccines that require two doses three to four weeks apart, the state is putting together a notification and reminder system so Rhode Islanders get the second test. Today Motif asked the governor about the vaccination plan for inmates at the state’s Adult Correctional Institute. The prison has had a huge upsurge in cases within the last month, with hundreds of inmates testing positive for COVID. Dr. Alexander-Scott told Motif that inmates would be getting vaccinated on a similar basis as nursing homes and other congregate care facilities.