PROVIDENCE - Governor Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that Rhode Island is still seeing an alarming increase in coronavirus cases, but she said she doesn’t yet believe the state is experiencing a “second wave” of the highly contagious disease.
Raimondo repeated her request that residents avoid large gatherings or traveling for Thanksgiving, and stressed that a failure to contain the virus could force her to impose more restrictions on businesses and move the state back to Phase 2 of its reopening.
“It’s clear we have community spread across the state,” Raimondo said during an afternoon press conference.
For the first time since Raimondo started holding coronavirus-related press conferences in March, the state did not publish new data regarding cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by the time she took the podium on Wednesday. She said the state was awaiting testing data from one of the labs.
Still, she made it clear that the state saw 149 new cases per 100,000 residents last week, the highest total it has had in several months. She said hospitalizations ticked down to an average of 94, but the test-positive rate was 2 percent.
Health Department director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said people between the ages of 19 and 24 are still driving the increase in cases, accounting for 21 percent of all positive tests last week. Alexander-Scott said workplace-associated cases and infections involving people who have attended religious services are also on the rise.
Raimondo announced that the state will deploy 300,000 new rapid tests beginning around Thanksgiving, which will be used by kindergarten through 12th grade schools, colleges, and universities, and at community health centers in high density communities, like Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls.
The BinaxNOW products, produced by Abbott, take 15 minutes to determine if a person is positive for the virus.
Raimondo stressed that Rhode Island’s spike in cases is hardly unique, since a majority of states are currently experiencing an uptick. And she said state leaders remain in close contact with the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about a potential vaccine.
“There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel,” Raimondo said.