Coronavirus

‘We are so tired’: Rhode Island is leading the country with its rate of new COVID-19 infections

Rhode Island has the highest average case rate per 100,000 for the last seven days in the country, according to the CDC.

Workers talk in a hallway of a newly opened field hospital operated by Care New England to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island is leading the country with the highest average daily COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a development that follows the state’s hospitals hitting capacity last week due to surging COVID-19 cases.

Since then, doctors have been taking to social media to share the strain that is being placed on health care workers on the front lines. 

After working a shift at a Rhode Island hospital, Dr. Rebecca Karb snapped a photo of herself and shared it on social media, writing that she’s starting to treat patients now whose cases appear to be linked to large Thanksgiving gatherings. 

“Last night, one of my (many) patients with COVID told me she had a large Thanksgiving dinner with family — 22 people,” Karb wrote on Tuesday. “The day after, one family member tested positive. Since then (according to my patient) *ALL* 22 people have developed symptoms, some severe.”

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“We are so tired,” she added. 

Over the last seven days, Rhode Island has reported an average of 122.9 cases per 100,000, according to the CDC. The state has a 8.9 percent positivity rate this week, according to the state’s COVID-19 data, up from 6.9 percent last week. 

Dr. Megan Ranney, a Brown University emergency room physician, said there are a number of reasons why the densely populated, but small, state is experiencing such high infection rates, including lots of testing, having a high number of college students per capita seeding infections, and a family-oriented population contributing to super-spreader events. 

“We are the 2nd most densely populated state, with lots of multi-family and multi-generational homes,” Ranney wrote on Twitter. “This leads to fast spread, simply because people can’t distance from each other … We also have a lot of poverty, a lot of essential workers, & a lot of immigrants. And we know that economic & racial inequity are major drivers of transmission of the virus.”

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The state likely won’t see decreasing counts from its two-week “pause” to address rising numbers for at least two to four weeks, she said. 

At the same time, Ranney and other health care providers have expressed concerns that the worst of the surge — the impacts of the Thanksgiving surge — are also still a few weeks away, just in time for the Christmas holiday when experts fear more indoor gatherings will occur. 

“At the end of the day, regardless of the reason, our hospitals are overwhelmed and everyone knows someone who’s sick,” the emergency room doctor said. “We are calling for retired [health care workers] to volunteer, while allowing people to eat in-person at Denny’s. We are, frankly, in a very bad spot. With no sign of slowing.”

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