COVID-19 pandemic

RI Health director tests positive for COVID-19, governor in quarantine

Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH

“Earlier today [Saturday, December 12], Rhode Island Department of Health [RI DoH] Director Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, tested positive for COVID-19. This was identified through routine testing. She is asymptomatic and will continue working from home. In accordance with Department of Health guidance, Governor Gina Raimondo and several members of her senior leadership team will be self-quarantining. The Governor tested negative today and will continue to be tested during her quarantine,” according to Josh Block, director of communications for the governor.

Alexander-Scott usually attends the governor’s press conferences, now conducted weekly and broadcast live from the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, commonly known as the “Vets.” At the most recent press conference on Thursday, December 10, she was in close contact on or near the stage with Raimondo, Block, Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, and vaccine expert Philip Chan, MD, of the Department of Health and Brown University School of Medicine, all of whom are now in precautionary quarantine through Thursday, December 17. As a result, the press conference scheduled for that day will be moved to the following day, Friday, December 18, still at 1pm.

UPDATE: Gov. Raimondo at 12:50pm on Sunday, December 13, tweeted “Thank you to everyone who has reached out and offered well-wishes. I tested negative again today. I am fortunate to be feeling great and will continue working from home during my self-quarantine.”

Close contact is defined as being within six feet for at least 15 minutes. “No employees at the Vets or members of the press were within 6 feet of Dr. Alexander-Scott,” Block said, and as a result are not required to self-quarantine.

However, several members of the press, including Bill Bartholomew (of the Bartholomewtown Podcast and WPRO radio), Steve Ahlquist (of UpRiseRI.com), and Motif‘s news editor Rob Smith said on Twitter that they plan to self-quarantine and seek testing. “So the most dangerous thing I’ve done since COVID began – and the reason I scheduled a COVID test for Tuesday – is I attended Governor Raimondo’s press conference on Thursday,” Ahlquist tweeted. “I think I was far enough back and masked enough in the large auditorium that I’m not in danger, but out of caution, I’m quarantining until I know more,” he separately tweeted. “But, don’t expect to see me before my test results,” Bartholomew tweeted. The official RI DoH Twitter account advised them that their decision to quarantine was not necessary, saying, “Everyone who should quarantine has already been contacted.”

Alexander-Scott has not chosen to share other details of her medical situation, such as how or when she might have been exposed to the virus. Despite her public visibility, like any other patient she is entitled to medical privacy.

A native of Brooklyn, NY, Alexander-Scott has served as RI DoH director since 2015 and is a nationally recognized expert in her field. She completed a four-year combined fellowship in infectious diseases of adults and children at Brown University, after finishing a combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency at SUNY Stony Brook in 2005 and medical school at SUNY Syracuse in 2001. She obtained a master’s degree in public health (MPH) from Brown in 2011.

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