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HEALTH

As R.I. COVID-19 cases soar past the Phase 3 limit, will Raimondo bring back some restrictions?

Governor Gina Raimondo during her weekly coronavirus briefing at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence last month.
Governor Gina Raimondo during her weekly coronavirus briefing at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence last month.David DelPoio/pool

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s weekly coronavirus cases exceeded the threshold set by Governor Gina M. Raimondo for Phase 3 — raising the prospect that she may re-impose restrictions on the economy.

The data reported by the state Department of Health Tuesday afternoon showed that the week ending Saturday had 120 new cases per 100,000 population, easily exceeding the governor’s limit of 100 new cases and the highest rate since mid-May.

Raimondo spokeswoman Audrey Lucas said the governor and state Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott will address the rise in confirmed cases at their weekly news conference Wednesday. “Any decisions around potential further restrictions will be based on a holistic examination of COVID-19 data, particularly case investigation analyses," Lucas said.

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Some of the increase can be attributed to increased testing, especially at the Rhode Island colleges and universities experiencing outbreaks. In August, for example, there were an average of 5,228 tests conducted per day. That rose to an average of 8,294 in September, and as of Monday, the October average is 10,053 tests per day.

However, the data also show a jump in weekly new hospitalizations, which reached 106 on Saturday, up from 67 the previous seven days, and a slight increase in the weekly percent-positivity rate, from 1.5 to 1.6 percent.

Rhode Island was up to 26,960 confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday, after adding 666 new cases since Friday. The most recent overall daily test-positive rate was 2.2 percent. Nine more people died since Friday, raising the death toll to 1,139. There are 126 people in the hospital with the virus.

Raimondo and Alexander-Scott have warned about an increase in cases after outbreaks at the University of Rhode Island, Providence College, and Johnson & Wales University.

At Johnson & Wales, there were 42 students who tested positive for COVID-19 during the week of Sept. 29 through Oct. 5. The university moved to remote-only learning.

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Johnson & Wales and URI set up testing sites last week and mandated that all students get tested, regardless of symptoms, to establish the health of the campus population.

In one week, health officials at URI conducted 7,398 tests and found 151 positive cases, a 2 percent positivity rate. As of Sunday, there were 520 people in isolation or quarantine, including 131 students in URI’s isolation/quarantine beds, roughly 23 percent of capacity.

The university also issued a two-week shelter-in-place order Friday for fraternity and sorority members, citing a high number of coronavirus cases in the school’s Greek system. The school said it based its decision on statistics showing a much higher rate of coronavirus positivity among students in Greek housing, 11.17 percent, than in total off-campus housing, 3.83 percent, and the on-campus population, 0.65 percent.

Providence College also moved to remote-only learning and tested all of its students. The college administered 25,068 tests and found 241 positive cases, including three staff members, according to the latest data. Another 88 students self-reported that they were positive for the virus.

As of Monday, Providence College had 14 students still in quarantine, but otherwise the outbreak had subsided, and the college resumed in-person learning last week.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.