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Health Team

Rhode Island psychiatric hospital deals with virus outbreak

Posted November 16, 2020 5:47 p.m. EST
Updated November 16, 2020 5:48 p.m. EST

— A state-run psychiatric hospital in Rhode Island is dealing with a coronavirus outbreak caused, in part, by employees showing up to work sick, authorities said.

As of Monday, 29 workers and nine patients at Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston had tested positive, according to an emailed statement from Randal Edgar, a spokesperson for the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, which oversees the hospital.

The outbreak is the result of staff members independently coming into contact with the virus in the community, he said.

“The most troubling information we uncovered in doing contact tracing is that some staff members worked even while they had significant symptoms of cold or flu-like illness,” Brian Daly, the hospital's chief medical officer said in an email to staff Friday obtained by The Providence Journal. “This means that they signed the attestation we all sign every day saying they did not have these symptoms when they did.”

The email went on to say that many patients are vulnerable and at an increased risk of having serious health complications from the illness.

In response to the outbreak, the hospital has taken several measures, including increasing testing of patients and staff to twice a week if they are in a unit where there has been a positive case, barring visitors, and requiring testing and quarantining of new patients.

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REMOTE LEARNING

Rhode Island's two major teachers' unions on Monday called for a “holiday pause” to in-person learning and a move to distance learning for all K-12 students by Nov. 23.

The National Education Association Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals called for better contact tracing and more frequent testing in schools, improved air filtration, and a deep cleaning of school buildings.

The state Department of Education works with the state Department of Health to monitor the spread of the virus, spokesperson Emily Crowell said in an emailed statement.

“We know that in-person learning is the best option for our kids and that our schools are following rigorous safety protocols in order to support our students and teachers who are in the classroom," the statement said.

Two Rhode Island schools moved to remote learning on Monday over coronavirus concerns.

Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick announced that classes will be held virtually Monday after four students and two staffers tested positive for the disease, authorities said.

The all-boys Catholic school in Warwick plans to return to in-person learning on Tuesday if contact tracing can be completed by the end of Monday.

Orlo Avenue Elementary School in East Providence is moving to virtual learning until Nov. 30 because of COVID-19-related staffing issues, WJAR-TV reported.

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SURGING CASES

There were more than 2,250 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Rhode Island over the past three days, including a single-day high of almost 1,100 new cases on Friday alone, according to numbers released Monday by the state Department of Health.

The department also added more than 140 more confirmed cases to previous days' tallies for a total of almost 2,400 new confirmed cases.

The department does not update on weekends.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has now risen over the past two weeks from more than 430 on Nov. 1 to over 540 on Sunday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

The department also reported 16 more deaths over the three-day period for a total of 1,270 fatalities since the pandemic started.

There were more than 250 people in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Saturday.

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COURT CANCELLATIONS

Providence Municipal Court has canceled all arraignments and hearings until further notice, Chief Judge Frank Caprio said in a statement Sunday.

Anyone with a trial date to appear before the Municipal Court during the closure will receive a new summons in the upcoming days.

Fines can be paid online or in-person at the Public Safety Complex.

The court handles disputes involving parking and traffic enforcement in the city.

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