PROVIDENCE, RI — In an effort to get a better idea of how prevalent the coronavirus is in the state, the Rhode Island Department of Health is offering certain groups of asymptomatic workers tests for coronavirus. Although this type of testing is not as effective as those conducted on someone with symptoms, the data will help the department study trends, Gov. Gina Raimondo said.
“Everything we’ve done from the beginning until now has been to have a high volume of testing, and have everyone have access to that testing,” Raimondo said. “Now it’s about testing smarter, not just testing more. It’s about finding out where the virus is, so we can react to it immediately.”
Rhode Island leads the nation in testing, Raimondo said, testing the most people per capita. Approximately 15 percent of the state’s population has been tested to date, compared to the average of 5.5 percent seen across other states. In addition, Rhode Island has seen a large drop in its percent positive rate in recent weeks, despite ramping up testing numbers.
In March, the percent positive rate was “well over 20 percent,” Raimondo said. Over the past few days, that number has dropped as low as three percent, she said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in Rhode Island, there have been three main focuses to the testing approach: rapidly testing everyone who has symptoms, quickly reacting to outbreaks and creating an “early warning detection system” by testing people without symptoms. Since the first two goals have been met, the state is now turning its attention to the third, aiming to test 900 asymptomatic people each day.
The following people are eligible for tests without symptoms at this time:
Child care workersClose contact workers such as barbers, hair stylists, gym employees, tattoo artists and spa employees
In the coming months, asymptomatic testing will be opened up to other groups, including students, teachers, parents, retail workers, manufacturing employees and higher education employees.
Anyone who attended a protest over the past weekend is also asked to get tested this week, and continue to self-monitor for symptoms. Raimondo said she, her husband and her daughter will get tested this week after attending the protest in Providence on Friday, as well as Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott and other member of the department who volunteered to pass out masks and provide public health information.
Tests can be scheduled by calling the department at 402-222-8022 or on RIDOH’s website.
The state continues to see a decline in positive cases, reporting 51 cases Monday, 65 Sunday and 97 Saturday. In total, 27 deaths were reported over the weekend: 10 Monday, seven Sunday and 10 Saturday. Two of the victims were in their 60s, seven in their 70s, nine in their 80s, eight in their 90s and one person over 100 years old, Dr. Alexander-Scott said.
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