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Second coronavirus case confirmed in R.I.; both patients were on a school trip to Europe

The teen and a man in his 40s were on a trip organized by a Pawtucket high school last month

Saint Raphael Academy, a Catholic high school in Pawtucket, is closed all week after a teen and an adult tested positive for coronavirus after returning from a school trip to Europe. A third person, an adult with mild symptoms, is being tested to see if she has the respiratory illness.
Saint Raphael Academy, a Catholic high school in Pawtucket, is closed all week after a teen and an adult tested positive for coronavirus after returning from a school trip to Europe. A third person, an adult with mild symptoms, is being tested to see if she has the respiratory illness.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — A teenager has become the second Rhode Island victim of the coronavirus, and state health officials said she was on the same school trip to Europe last month as the first victim, a man in his 40s who was hospitalized.

The trip was sponsored by Saint Raphael Academy, a Catholic high school in Pawtucket; those on the trip visited Italy, France, and Spain.

In addition, health workers have administered a test for the virus to an adult in her 30s who was on the same trip and works at Achievement First Academy in Providence.

Saint Raphael Academy will be closed all week, state officials said. Earlier Sunday, the school announced that a member of the St. Ray’s community had the first “presumptive positive” case of coronavirus in Rhode Island.

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The Health Department said the second “presumptive positive case” is a teenager who is at home with mild symptoms.

The adult who works at Achievement First is at home with mild symptoms, the Department of Health said. Achievement First Academy will be closed for two days, pending the results of the staff member’s tests. The test results are expected Monday, and the school is closing for an additional day for cleaning.

All 38 of the people who went on the European trip will be self-monitoring for symptoms at home for 14 days with public health supervision. They have been instructed to not go to school or work and to remain at home for these 14 days, health officials said.

“All three people went on the same trip to Italy,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the state Department of Health. “This is precisely why we are being so aggressive in identifying contacts, ensuring monitoring, and testing people who are symptomatic.”

Outreach to the people who were in direct contact with any of these three individuals is ongoing. These direct contacts will be self-monitoring for symptoms at home for 14 days with public health supervision. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is contacting people on the return flight that these three individuals took back to the United States.

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On its website, Saint Raphael Academy said that the school would be closed for the remainder of the week, in accordance with the state health department’s request.

“Students will be instructed at home through virtual learning,” the school’s website states. “During this time period, we are asking our students to continue to follow good health practices and avoid gathering in large groups.”

If confirmed by federal health officials, these would mark only the second and third cases of the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, in New England. Massachusetts health officials announced Feb. 1 that a University of Massachusetts Boston student who had traveled to Wuhan City, China, had contracted the respiratory illness.

In Rhode Island, health officials said they are coordinating closely with the hospital where the adult patient is being treated, and they are asking 40 people who had direct contact with him to self-quarantine for 14 days. Officials did not release the name of the person or the hospital.

“Fortunately, this person had very limited travel in Rhode Island after returning from Europe,” Alexander-Scott said during a Sunday morning news conference. “The patient had not returned to work after coming back from their trip.”

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At the news conference, Alexander-Scott said the man’s immediate family members have been asked to stay home for 14 days since their last potential exposure to him.

"At this point, no one who lives in this person’s home has developed any symptoms,” she said. “That is a critical factor.”

And she emphasized that the risk level is “very low” for those who have come in contact with people who had direct contact with the man.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Italy.

On Thursday, Rhode Island health officials announced that, since early February, 26 people who recently traveled to China had voluntarily quarantined themselves in their Rhode Island homes while being monitored for Covid-19. On Sunday, they updated that number, saying that a total of 66 Rhode Islanders now have done so.

During Sunday’s news conference, Governor Gina M. Raimondo said she understands why many Rhode Islanders are concerned or even frightened about coronavirus.

But, she said, “At this point in time, the general level of risk for Rhode Islanders is low. There is no need to panic. There is no need to be frightened.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.