RHODE ISLAND—Governor Gina Raimondo directed Rhode Island flags at all state agencies and buildings to be flown at half mast last Thursday through Sunday in memorial observance of the now 1,005 Rhode Islanders who have died from COVID-19. The Rhode Island Statehouse was also illuminated in red, white and blue through Sunday to honor those Rhode Islanders who died of the viral pandemic, as well as the other 140,000 Americans whose lives have been lost.

“The virus is with us. It’s taking loved ones from us every day,” Raimondo said.

Since the first reported case of COVID-19 on March 1, Rhode Island has implemented a total of 352K tests, of which there have been 18,725confirmed positive cases, meaning that a little over 5 percent of all Rhode Islanders tested have tested positive. Of that number of positive cases, just over 5 percent have resulted in death.

This means that, though Rhode Island has done much to flatten the curve and slow the spread of new cases, the initial outbreak ensured that the state suffered one of the highest per-capita fatality rates in the nation, ranking higher than some even more densely populated metropolitan areas such as Washington, D. C. One reason for this is the fact that many outbreaks occurred in elderly populations.

Indeed, of the now more than 1,000 dead, at least 745 died in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).

“This pandemic has taken a terrible toll on our state, and my heart breaks for the thousands of Rhode Islanders who have lost someone to this virus,” Raimondo said. “We must continue to do everything we can in their memory to protect our neighbors, friends and family from COVID-19. My thoughts, today and every day, are with the loved ones of those we have lost.”

Importantly, RIDOH has begun disseminating more granular data regarding the dispersion of the virus in different communities across the state, which will allow municipal officials to better gauge what is and is not working in their towns with regard to prevention. This data is available on RIDOH’s COVID-19 response website.

“There’s some good numbers there to be able to track,” said East Greenwich town manager Andrew Nota. “[This] was a significant update regarding municipal data and how that is being reflected on the department of health’s website.”

Among the most tested communities in the state were Central Falls and Providence, with 24 and 20 percent of their populations having been tested thus far. They are also the worst hit in terms of percentage of those getting tested who test positive. Twenty-one percent of all people tested in Central Falls were positive, with 17 percent testing positive in Providence.

Meanwhile, East Greenwich, Narragansett and North Kingstown only demonstrated a respective  4, 3 and 6 percent showing of positive cases. Real numbers of positive cases may differ, however, as each town has had different showings in terms of the number of people actually getting tested. Nineteen percent of the East Greenwich population has been tested, 10 percent of the Narragansett population has been tested, and 15 percent of the North Kingstown population has been tested. The town with the lowest total percentage of its population tested was Richmond, with just 8 percent.

For now, town leaders are being mindful and encouraging residents to adhere to state guidelines on mass gatherings and public spaces to help continue Rhode Island’s downward trajectory in the total number of observed cases, even as other states throughout the nation are reeling with record-breaking outbreaks.

“There was significant concern regarding lack of compliance at beaches recently,” Nota said. “We need to be cognizant of the fact that others are still suffering around the country.”

It is feared, however, that though the pandemic is being contained currently, a resurgence could cause widespread financial and personal ruin across the state. As such, RIDOH officials have been cautiously watching the numbers as a two-month high of 119 new cases was registered Tuesday. The rise marks the high point of a trend back toward increased cases that started on July 13.

RIDOH issued  ten compliance orders to restaurants and bars this week for failing to comply with a range of public health directives related to COVID-19, and director Nicole Alexander Scott issued a statement regarding the correlation between sloppy pandemic practices and an uptick in observed cases.

“There are restaurants throughout Rhode Island that are doing a great job welcoming and serving customers in a way that is healthy and safe,” said Alexander-Scott. “The few that are not are hurting the entire industry, jeopardizing the safety of their customers and setting Rhode Island back in our work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

“As residents, business owners and a state, we need to be more vigilant now than ever,” Alexander-Scott added.

For now, Rhode Islanders are asked to honor the memory of those who have died from COVID-19 by doing what they can to prevent the spread of the virus, and adhering to state and national health guidelines.

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