Despite Rising Case Numbers, Raimondo Expressed Pride About RI’s Response to COVID: A summary of the governor’s October 7 press conference

Governor Gina Raimondo and DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott gave the weekly COVID press briefing today at 1pm.

Rhode Island has seen 145 new cases of the coronavirus according to data provided by DOH this morning. The governor announced during her comments today that the state performed 9,524 tests with a percent positive rate of 1.5%, far below the 5% recommended by the CDC. “If you look at how Rhode Island is doing relative to other states, you should be proud of the 1.5%,” said Raimondo. 

State officials in the Ocean State calculate that rate differently than other states, something local media has frequently critiqued. RI is among the few states to count repeat tests, and the positive percent rate is higher if you only count first time COVID test takers. Calculating how many positive tests there are is a key metric in discovering the virus’ spread. When asked today, the governor said the state records data using both ways, and that it was unfair to penalize the state for essentially just testing more. Dr. Alexander-Scott today added they weren’t look at aggregate numbers, but pointedly testing in specific communities such as college students or congregate care homes in order to determine the prevalence of the coronavirus. The governor also announced today her intentions to scale up testing, saying residents should not be surprised or alarmed to hear of 10,000 COVID tests being performed daily statewide.

There are 107 people hospitalized for reasons related to COVID-19. The state is trending downward in this statistic. Last week, 70 people were admitted to the hospital for COVID while this week it’s down to 66. Ten people are in the intensive care unit statewide with the virus, and five of those people are on ventilators. DOH reports one additional death today, a person in their 80s.

Raimondo addressed the status of the K-12 testing system today. K-12 schools have their own testing infrastructure, separate from the regular COVID testing system that’s been in place for months. Any student, staff member or teacher who needs a test should be using the separate testing system. Since school began, the K-12 system has performed almost 6,000 tests, with just 2,500 of those tests being performed last week. That system has turned out 109 positive cases, making its percent positive rate around 2%. The governor noted that the number of positive cases in the school system overall was 260, indicating that members of the K-12 system had received testing outside the one designed specifically for schools.

Out of the 95 schools that have seen COVID cases, most of those schools only have one positive case of the virus. Governor Raimondo stated they had not seen outbreaks, and that when they arise the state has become experts in handling them. “Bottom line is these systems are working and you should have confidence,” she said.

Governor Raimondo also put out a call for substitute teachers today, citing a desperate need for them in schools. She appealed to folks’ sense of duty and called on retired teachers to sign up to be substitute teachers. One member of the media noted they were hearing teachers in some districts were encouraged not to use sick time due to the lack of coverage. The governor repeated that most students were back in school after a month and the state had yet to see a breakout.

When asked today by the press corp if district court rulings against social gathering limits concerned Governor Raimondo for any future lockdown situations, the governor said she was not concerned. The district rulings were not in Rhode Island’s district, and her executive orders limiting gatherings have been time limited to 300-day periods. She said she hopes to avoid another lockdown situation like in the spring, when they didn’t even know how to test for the virus. Raimondo finished by saying it was a balancing act between people’s freedoms and matters of life and death.