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February 21, 2020
Coronavirus Disease 2019 Update No. 3
The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and national public health officials continue to respond to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Although there have not been any cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Rhode Island, 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, for the near future to our community partners with updates and key information.

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 mainland China 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. It is critical that we all continue to treat people of Asian descent and all the members of our community with compassion and respect. 

Novel Coronavirus Situation Update
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local health departments are working to update their materials to reflect the naming of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus—coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.
  • As of February 21, there are 34 confirmed cases in the United States (including 18 positive cases of American citizens who were repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan).
  • There are no confirmed cases in Rhode Island.
  • Currently, COVID-19 is not spreading widely in the community in the United States.
  • Repatriation efforts are ongoing. All repatriated US citizens are required to wait 14 days in federal quarantine without having symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test result before they are permitted to travel to their final destination.
  • CDC distributed test kits to state laboratories earlier this month, but performance issues were identified. As a result, the CDC is remanufacturing the kits. New test kits will be distributed after issues are addressed.
The Local and National Response
  • The goal of the US public health response is to minimize the introductions of this virus into the US, to detect new cases quickly, and to reduce community spread of COVID-19 in the US. However, given the dynamics of this outbreak, it is possible that the US will see more cases and that Rhode Island could have a case.
  • RIDOH continues to take extensive preparedness measures locally, including coordinating closely with State agencies, community organizations, healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, schools, and numerous other partners as part of readiness planning and to provide education, guidance, and support.
  • RIDOH’s Incident Command System remains activated to coordinate the preparedness steps being taken throughout the Department and in collaboration with other State entities.
    • On February 20, RIDOH issued a press release on its preparedness steps (available here, and below, under Resources)
  • In accordance with federal guidance, RIDOH is coordinating a process to ensure that anyone who has been to China in the previous 14 days is self-monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19, having public health check-ins, and limiting their movement locally. Once 14 symptom-free days pass since someone’s last potential exposure to COVID-19, there is no longer a health concern about that person getting sick or spreading the illness.
  • RIDOH is also coordinating with other State agencies and community organizations to ensure that people who are remaining at home after travel in China have the support services they need, such as groceries and prescription medications.
  • RIDOH has linked to COVID-19 fact sheets from the CDC in six different languages (available below, under Resources).
What you can do
  • At this time, the CDC does not recommend use of facemasks among the general public. While there has been limited person-to-person spread among close contacts in the United States, the virus is not spreading widely in the community. The CDC’s position is that if you are not sick, you should not wear a facemask. The masks should be reserved for those who are sick, so they can prevent further spread of the virus.
  • Because human coronaviruses are most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, RIDOH recommends the same measures that prevent the spread of flu and other similar viruses:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Stay home when you are sick.
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • We can all work collaboratively to share accurate information and to reject potentially harmful myths. Remember that people who returned more than 14 days ago from areas where COVID-19 is active and do not have symptoms of COVID-19 do not put others at risk.
Resources Please contact RIDOH Infectious Disease Communications Coordinator Aaron Frechette ( 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 ( Please contact the RIDOH Health Information Line at 401-222-5960 with any other questions.
Copyright © 2020 The Rhode Island Department of Health, All rights reserved.

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