Citing data showing significant increases in the spread of COVID-19 and related hospitalizations nationally, the CDC on May 18 said residents and leaders in many areas of the United States should adopt or consider adopting stricter containment measures, including mask-wearing in indoor public settings and more testing. Here’s what Rhode Islanders need to know.
Is Rhode Island one of the areas the CDC says should consider stricter measures?
Yes. The agency said its guidance applies to areas listed as medium or high on the Community Level rating system. As of May 26, four Rhode Island counties that previously were rated high are now rated medium: Providence, Kent, Bristol and Washington. Newport County, which had been listed medium, is high.
How are the Community Level ratings calculated?
Community risk is categorized as low (color-coded green), medium (yellow) or high (orange) “by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area,” according to the CDC.
What are the latest Rhode Island numbers?
On May 27, Rhode Island reported eight new coronavirus-related deaths and 636 additional cases of COVID-19. The state also reported 5,280 negative tests, for a 10.8% positive rate. There were 81 COVID-positive patients in Rhode Island hospitals at last count, compared to more than 600 at the height of the omicron wave in mid-January, with fewer than five in intensive care. The state Health Department reports that over the last month, 42% of the COVID-positive patients tested positive after being admitted for reasons unrelated to the virus. COVID was the primary reason for hospitalization in only about a third of those patients.
Rhode Island has reported an average of 599 new cases a day over the last seven days, down 28% from a week ago and down 22% from two weeks ago. Over the past week, 9.9% of reported tests have been positive, compared to 10.8% the previous week.
Do confirmed case counts accurately reflect the true picture?
No. Self-testing has proliferated and many – perhaps most – people who have learned that they are infected through self-testing do not report it to municipal, state or federal authorities.
“Although the reported number of cases in the U.S. is now over 100,000 per day, the real number is clearly orders of magnitude higher,” Brown University School of Public Health epidemiologist Mark Lurie told The Journal on May 19. “We are clearly experiencing the next wave; who among us doesn't know multiple people who have been infected during this wave?”
What are the projections for COVID in our state as spring turns to summer?
“With COVID-19 now an endemic disease in Rhode Island, we should expect moderate increases and decreases in our COVID-19 levels over the coming months,” Department of Health spokesman Joseph Wendelken told The Journal in an email May 19. “Fortunately, we now have an ample supply of vaccine, treatment and testing resources. For this reason, we don’t expect our case numbers and hospitalization numbers to get to the levels of January’s surge.”
What general advice does the Health Department give?
“Anyone who is not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccine should get up to date today,” Wendelken said. “A booster dose makes you 55 times less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19. Similarly, treatment is extremely effective at preventing serious illness from COVID-19. Ask your health care provider right away about treatment if you test positive for COVID-19.”
What about masking?
“Rhode Island is following the CDC’s guidance for community prevention measures,” Wendelken said. “For people in counties at the high level... we recommend that you wear a high-quality mask when in indoor, public settings. When you wear a mask you protect the people around you, and a high-quality mask also provides the wearer with protection.”
The state has not announced any intention of reinstating an indoor mask mandate.
With summer on the horizon, I’m planning to travel. What factors should I consider?
“If people are traveling, they should know that the CDC still recommends masks on public transportation and in transportation hubs,” according to Wendelken. “People should also be aware of the local recommendations related to COVID-19.”
Lurie said: “With many infectious people in the community, my recommendations would be, right now, to only travel if necessary, get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear a well-fitting mask. Just because you want the virus to be over does not make it over.”
Should travelers to Rhode Island from other medium and high-rated areas take precautions?
Yes, according to Lurie, who offered the same guidance as for state residents planning to travel.
Wendelken wrote that “this is one benefit of remaining consistent with the CDC’s standard guidance for limiting the spread of COVID-19: by consulting the CDC’s site, people coming to Rhode Island can learn about the COVID-19 recommendations here, and people traveling to other parts of the country from Rhode Island can learn about the COVID-19 recommendations where they are headed.”
Where can I find Community Level ratings for every region of the U.S.?
It's happening again: COVID-19 cases are back on the rise in the U.S. There are 3 main reasons why.
With reports from Managing Editor Michael McDermott.
COVID by the numbers
Cases in R.I.: 391,275 (636 reported May 27)
Negative tests in R.I.: 7,540,684 (5,280 reported May 27; 10.8% positive rate)
R.I. COVID-related deaths: 3,577 (8 reported May 27)
Rhode Islanders hospitalized with COVID: 81 (fewer than 5 in intensive care)
Fully vaccinated in R.I.: 833,559 (953,587 at least partially vaccinated)
Cases in Mass.: 1,859,460
Mass. COVID-related deaths: 20,561
Cases in U.S.: 83,906,729
U.S. COVID-related deaths: 1,004,430
U.S. COVID-related deaths: 1,003,956
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: COVID cases rising again, CDC sets new guidance. What you need to know.