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RI HEALTH

R.I. reports 47 COVID cases at state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital

It was one of the first two health care facilities in the state to go into “crisis” levels of staffing, meaning that it was using COVID-positive workers earlier in the year.

The Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston, R.I.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE – The state-run hospital system for people with complex medical and psychiatric conditions has had 47 positive cases of COVID-19 among patients in the last 10 days.

“The hospital continues to monitor the conditions of these patients very closely,” Randal Edgar, spokesman for the hospital’s parent agency, said in an email Wednesday morning. “In most cases these patients have exhibited relatively mild symptoms.”

The 47 cases are an increase over the 28 cases that had been reported as of Jan. 6. There are usually about 200 patients at Eleanor Slater Hospital, which has campuses in Burrillville and Cranston. The cases, according to state officials, are spread out among different units, though a specific breakdown wasn’t immediately available.

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Eleanor Slater Hospital is a long-term acute care hospital, meaning its patients often live there for years.

It was one of the first two health care facilities in the state to go into “crisis” levels of staffing, meaning that it was using COVID-positive workers earlier in the year. But the state has maintained that the use of COVID-positive workers on Jan. 1 and Jan. 3 was not connected to the COVID outbreak. The staff members, who did not have symptoms, were only in areas with COVID-positive patients with one exception. In the area where one COVID-positive worker worked with patients who didn’t have COVID, there have been no COVID-positive cases, the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals said.

The state used two COVID-positive workers on Jan. 1, and three on Jan. 3, due to what the state called staffing constraints. It was nevertheless an extraordinary move, one that experts say should only be a last resort.

The state Department of Health has adopted U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for “crisis” staffing levels, which allow facilities to use COVID-positive workers without restriction if there’s no alternative. Staff without symptoms or staff with only minor symptoms should be prioritized under those rules, and the state has said it’s urging facilities that take that step to limit infected staff to working with only infected patients.

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Edgar’s statement did not address whether any COVID-19-positive patients have needed to go to an acute care hospital.

Edgar said the facility is taking precautions, including the use of N95 masks and “deep cleanings,” to halt the spread of the coronavirus.


Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.