Governor urges Rhode Islanders to scale back Thanksgiving

With the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the rise, Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday urged Rhode Islanders to scale back their Thanksgiving holiday plans by avoiding out-of-state travel and limiting celebrations to just those who live within the same household.

For people planning to attend larger gatherings, she suggested that for 14 days before they holiday they do all they can to minimize their exposure to the coronavirus by skipping social gatherings, nonessential activities and travel. People should also get tested, even if they are asymptomatic.

“This is the best way to avoid spreading the virus to our loved and for us, as a state, to avoid having major problems in the weeks after Thanksgiving," the Democratic governor said at a news conference.

A similar strategy for the return to college students to the state worked, she said.

People attending larger family gatherings with people from multiple households should wear masks, socially distance, avoid sharing food and drink, and avoid close contact activities such as traditional back yard football games, she said.

“Be ultra safe since we're not in a great spot right now as it relates to coronavirus," she said.

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CASES AMONG THE YOUNG

A disproportionate number of the recently confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Rhode Island are among young adults, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the state Department of Health, said Wednesday.

Of the 1,209 new confirmed cases for the week of Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, 21% were in people ages 19 to 24, she said.

People in that age group make up just 9% of the state's population.

The state is also seeing increased spread in workplaces among people who share break rooms, carpool or are not wearing masks while in close contact with coworkers, she said. Raimondo last week ordered small workplace break rooms shut down.

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RAPID TESTING

Rhode Island is getting 300,000 Abbott BinaxNOW Ag Card rapid tests from the federal government by the end of the year, Raimondo said.

The state’s testing team has decided to deploy those in three settings where there is “a need for speed” — K-12 schools, health centers in high-density communities, and colleges and universities, she said.

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ROGER WILLIAMS CLUSTER

Roger Williams University has closed one building and moved some classes online in response to a cluster of positive coronavirus tests, but said in a message to students that some of the positives could be tied to research on the virus, rather than actual infections.

The school in Bristol had 23 new cases over a period of a few days last week, the most since it reopened, The Providence Journal reported Tuesday.

Twenty of the new cases were tied to the Marine and Natural Sciences building. Some courses taught in that building are going to remote instruction, while others are being taught in different buildings, the university said.

There is research underway in the building related to identifying, containing and stopping the spread of COVID-19, chief of staff Brian Williams said. The lab materials used in this research mimic the virus, but aren’t the virus itself, and can trigger a positive test, Williams said.

Some of the people who tested positive were retested, and came back negative. They are still in quarantine.

Of the 23 new cases, 18 were students and five were faculty, he said.