PROVIDENCE, RI — On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidance on protecting people and neighborhoods from COVID-19, designating all Rhode Island counties as yellow zone areas where masks indoors aren’t recommended.
The announcement coincided with the RI Department of Health’s plan to transition COVID-19 management from pandemic (spreading rapidly across large areas) to endemic strategy (always present in a region or group) strategy focused on more traditional models of prevention and treatment.
The CDC has not downgraded the spread of COVID-19 from a pandemic, though it notes vaccination and increasing immunity to the virus has justified approaching the response to the pandemic in a new phase.
“In general, if there is less than 4-5 percent test positivity – especially if it is on the way down – then community risk is small, albeit not zero. At this point KN95/N95, well-fitted masks are important but boosted vaccination is much more so, for those old enough to qualify. All the adults should be fully boosted, which would afford them 80-fold protection from severe diseases,” said Dr. Don Thea, Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Global Health, Boston University School of Public Health, and an ABIM board-certified Infectious Diseases physician.
Rhode Island’s COVID-19 cases have decreased by more than 95 percent since early January, and the state’s new hospital admissions have decreased by 83 percent from mid-January to the end of February, according to the RIDOH.
“Given this new phase of the pandemic, CDC is launching a new tool to monitor COVID-19 Community Levels. Each county’s COVID-19 Community Level is ranked as low, medium, or high (find your county’s level). The COVID-19 Community Level map where you can find your county’s level will be updated regularly with new data. Your community’s level is determined by a combination of:
- How many people with COVID-19 have been admitted into local hospitals in the last week
- How many local hospital beds are filled with COVID-19 patients
- How many new COVID-19 cases the county has had in the last week
CDC recommends certain prevention measures—such as wearing masks indoors—when COVID-19 Community Levels are high enough to strain the healthcare system and when needed to protect those at increased risk of severe illness. This allows people to take a break from masks and other measures when risk is low and reach for them again if things are getting worse,” the CDC wrote in its update to pandemic guidance.
In Rhode Island, the shift affects mask and vaccination requirements accordingly, RIDOH reports:
RI COVID-19 Testing
“In alignment with the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rhode Island will shift the testing strategy at State-run COVID-19 testing sites on March 7 to focus on people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and people who are close contacts of someone who tested positive.
There is now an abundance of testing available in the community. People who are asymptomatic and aren’t a close contact but want to be tested for COVID-19 can access testing through most pharmacies, clinics, and primary care providers throughout the state. (These same testing options should be used by people who need to be tested before travel.) Kits that you can use to test yourself for COVID-19 are also available through community organizations, local pharmacies, and online retailers.
Focusing testing efforts at Rhode Island’s State-run testing sites on people who are symptomatic and people who are close contacts will ensure that people who are positive and eligible for treatment can be quickly connected to treatment. Treatment is one of the many reasons why we have seen such a drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations.”
RI COVID-19 Vaccination
“As part of a renewed effort to increase primary series and booster dose vaccination rates in communities where they are lower, the State is also coordinating a faith-based vaccination program. This effort involves a community of worship welcoming a physician to speak and answer questions during a service, and then hosting a vaccination clinic after that service.
Additionally, the State is planning an on-site vaccination clinic at schools in several communities where the student vaccination rate is below 20 percent. More than 40 clinics are currently scheduled. These clinics are follow-ups to the vaccination clinics the State organized at schools during the spring and fall of 2021.
Part of this renewed focus on community vaccination settings entails shifting away from larger, centralized vaccination venues. On Feb. 26, the Rhode Island Convention Center will cease offering vaccination appointments. Current conditions and the prevalence of vaccination sites across the State have reduced the need for mass vaccination sites.”
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