Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and national public health officials latest response to coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Coronavirus Disease 2019 Update No. 7

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and national public health officials continue to respond to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As the situation evolves, we want to make sure that our communities and our healthcare system are prepared. Being informed is an important part of being prepared. For that reason, we intend to send regular Partner Briefings, such as this, to our community partners with updates and key information. Please share this briefing with your colleagues and networks.

Someone's risk for COVID-19 is closely tied to their recent travel history, and the travel histories of their immediate contacts—specifically, travel to areas with community transmission of COVID-19 or close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19. One of the most important messages for us to remember is that someone’s nationality alone is not a risk factor for COVID-19.

COVID-19 Situation Update

  • COVID-19 in Rhode Island:
    • On March 9, Governor Gina M. Raimondo signed a declaration creating a State of Emergency in Rhode Island, allowing the State to access additional resources to supplement its robust response to COVID-19. In addition, the Governor, Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT), and Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) announced a series of new COVID-19 preparedness and response measures to support employers, employees, and nursing homes throughout the state. 
    • On February 29, Rhode Island announced its first and second presumptive positive cases of COVID-19. Both individuals participated in a trip to Italy with Saint Raphael Academy. Both cases have since been confirmed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    • A third individual associated with this trip to Italy, a Massachusetts resident, has also tested positive for COVID-19. Because this individual is a resident of Massachusetts, the testing was conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Health.
    • On March 6, 2020 Rhode Island announced its third presumptive positive case of COVID-19. This person is at home with mild symptoms.
    • A staff member from Providence’s Achievement First Academy also took part in this trip to Italy and developed symptoms after returning to the United States. This individual has tested negative
    • Saint Raphael Academy remains closed.
    • Achievement First Academy Hartford (Providence) and Garfield (Cranston) campuses were closed on March 3 for cleaning.
    • All students and chaperones who participated in the Saint Raphael Academy trip (and are not ill) are in home quarantine for 14 days, are self-monitoring for symptoms, and are in daily contact with a public health nurse.
  • The CDC has updated travel guidance:
    • Level 3 Travel Health Notice (Avoid all nonessential travel): China, Iran, Italy, South Korea
    • Level 2 Travel Health Notice (CDC recommends that older adults or those who have chronic medical conditions consider postponing travel): Japan
    • Level 1 Travel Health Notice (Practice usual precautions): Hong Kong
  • COVID-19 worldwide:
    • As of March 10, there are over 115,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide. There have been over 4,000 deaths and over 64,000 individuals have recovered.

Responding to COVID-19

  • What RIDOH is doing:
    • RIDOH’s Incident Command System remains activated to coordinate the preparedness steps being taken throughout the Department and in collaboration with other State entities.
    • RIDOH is working with the healthcare system to provide clinical guidance on visiting hour policies, evaluating patients, testing, and reporting cases. In addition, we are working together to survey supplies and review plans for increased patient volume.
    • RIDOH is communicating with a wide range of community partners across Rhode Island. These partners include schools, universities, WIC agencies, businesses, and faith- and community-based organizations.
    • RIDOH is sharing business guidance to help the public and private sectors ensure they can operate with adaptations like telework and flexible sick leave policies.  
    • To ensure that RIDOH is coordinating as closely as possible with CDC officials managing the COVID-19 response at the national level, a five-person team from the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) has been embedded at RIDOH.
    • The State has instructed all State employees who have traveled to China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, or Japan in the last 14 days and going forward are being instructed to remain at home until 14 symptom-free days have passed after their return home.
    • To help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19, RIDOH is encouraging employers throughout Rhode Island to, if possible, ask employees who have traveled to China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, or Japan in the last 14 days and going forward to remain at home until 14 symptom-free days have passed since their return to the US.
    • RIDOH is utilizing multiple options for places people can go for specimen collection if they need to be tested, including non-healthcare settings. RIDOH will direct people to these locations for specimen collection as needed. Samples will be sent to the RIDOH State Health Laboratories for testing.
      • Please note that there are criteria for testing. Currently, federal guidance states that only people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and contact with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 or travel history to a country with community spread will be tested.
    • RIDOH has activated a telephone line specifically for general COVID-19 questions. Please call 401-222-8022 for general COVID-19 questions.
    • RIDOH has also activated two COVID-19 email addresses.
  • What you can do:
    • Protect yourself:
      • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
      • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
        • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
      • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
      • Stay home when you are sick.
      • Cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve or a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
      • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
      • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Protect your community: 
      • Stay at home if you are sick.
      • If you are at a mass gathering, public event, or religious service, consider waving instead of shaking hands. Do not share chalices, cups, or glasses.
      • Call first. If you are concerned that you may be sick with COVID-19, call your healthcare provider before going to the facility.
      • CDC recommends that facemasks and other protective equipment be reserved for those who are ill and the healthcare workers who are caring for them.


Please contact RIDOH Infectious Disease Communications Coordinator Aaron Frechette (aaron.frechette@health.ri.gov) or 401-222-7624 for assistance with educational materials and communication resources. To be added to this distribution list to receive future communications, email Anna Tomasulo (anna.tomasulo@health.ri.gov). Please contact the RIDOH COVID-19 Information Line at 401-222-8022, or email RIDOH.covid19questions@health.ri.gov, with any other questions.