PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH)’s State Health Laboratories have reported a third presumptive positive case of COVID-19, with the national total cases reported from 19 states at 164.
The latest RI case is a woman in her 60s who had had direct, face-to-face contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 in New York in late February. She is at home with mild symptoms, RIDOH reports.
The case has not yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Extensive contact tracing is being performed on the case, meaning everyone with direct, face-to-face contact with the woman is being instructed to self-quarantine.
The contact tracing includes children and adults associated with Smithfield Avenue Nursery in Pawtucket, where the woman works. Initial studies of COVID-19 indicate that the virus does not affect children as severely as adults.
COVID-19 severity in doubt as testing improves
The new, or novel coronavirus, is the seventh of such viruses, named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. This family of viruses include SARS and MERS. COVID-19 has a reported fatality rate of between 2 and 3 percent.
Reports also suggest, however, that most cases of infection result in mild, and thus unreported cases, which could bring the COVID-19 fatality rate below 1 percent after more thorough testing for the virus is conducted, as vaccine expert Paul A. Offit told FactCheck.org. (The CDC, under President Donald Trump’s leadership, was both slow to provide tests for the virus and botched the initial test kits, as reported by Vox.com.)
By comparison, the case fatality rate with seasonal flu is about 0.1 percent, about 10 times less fatal than the current low-estimate of 1 percent for COVID-19.
RIDOH officials held a call with the leadership of nursing homes throughout Rhode Island today to discuss enhanced measures to protect residents. RIDOH asked all facilities to, as of tomorrow morning or sooner:
- Restrict visitor hours.
- Not allow people to visit if they are younger than 18 years of age or are feeling sick or experiencing any of the following symptoms: cough, fever, chills, runny nose, stuffy nose, sore throat, or shortness of breath.
- Actively screen staff, visitors, vendors, and all other people who enter facilities for illness and COVID-19 risks (i.e., travel history, or exposure to someone under investigation for COVID-19). People who have traveled internationally in the last 14 days will be asked to not enter facilities.
- Only allow residents to leave for medical appointments (as opposed to nonessential appointments, such as an appointment with a hairdresser or a visit to a family member). This is a way to limit the possibility that a resident will get ill and bring that illness back into the facility.
As a state with COVID-19 cases, Rhode Island has received an immediate $500,000 dollars in federal funds to support public health response actions such as epidemiological work, laboratory work and supplies, risk communications support, and other activities related to public health emergency operations. Additional federal appropriations are being considered.
COVID-19 by the numbers
- Number of Rhode Island COVID-19 positive (including presumptive positive) cases: 3
- Number of people who had negative test results at RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories: 17
- Number of people for whom tests are pending: 13
- Number of people who are currently instructed to self-quarantine in Rhode Island because they had direct contact with a person with COVID-19: approximately 210 (RIDOH is sharing an approximate number because this number is subject to change regularly)
COVID-19 Symptoms, Illness
COVID-19 is similar to the flu, particularly in how it is spread from person to person. COVID-19 symptoms, which may appear 2-14 days after exposure, include:
- Shortness of breath
While the illness is similar to seasonal influenza, it is currently less wide-spread than flu. However, it also causes a more serious illness and is less well-studied than influenza.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
Public COVID-19 tips:
- Get your flu shot. Flu shots are your best protection against the flu, and they help protect the friends and loved ones around you who may be more at risk of getting very sick because of the flu, such as pregnant women, infants, and older adults. Flu vaccine can also help people avoid flu-related hospitalizations. This allows hospitals to focus on patients with more severe illnesses.
- Wash your hands regularly. When washing your hands, use warm water and soap. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Flu is spread through coughing or sneezing on other people or into your hands. Cover your coughs and sneezes to prevent others from getting sick.
- Stay home from work or school when you are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.
- Keep surfaces clean (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, and toys for children) by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
- Don’t wear a mask unless you’re sick: You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. Face masks are generally used to prevent sick people from getting other people sick.
Business COVID-19 tips:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay out of work until they are free of: fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines.
- Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible. If possible, maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member.
- Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees. Employers can do this by displaying posters that encourage cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene.
- Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
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