PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island public health officials say they’ve identified the state’s second positive case of the new virus that has sickened tens of thousands across the globe.
The Rhode Island Department of Health announced Sunday that an unidentified man in his 40s and a teenage girl who both had traveled to Europe in mid-February tested positive for the virus, pending confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The man’s test result was announced Sunday afternoon, and the teenager’s result was disclosed a few hours later. Officials say a third person in Rhode Island who was on the trip to Europe is also being tested for the new coronavirus.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo cautioned residents at a press conference Sunday that there’s “no need for panic.”
“At this point in time, the general level of risk for Rhode islanders is low,” she said.
A few hours after the press conference, a Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Catholic high school located on the Massachusetts border posted an online statement saying students and chaperones who were on a trip to Europe with an infected person will be out of school until March 9.
They are being self-quarantined with state supervision, according to the statement.
The person has not been at Saint Raphael Academy “since returning from Europe,” the school’s statement said in confirming that a member of its “community has had a ‘presumptive positive’ test result to the coronavirus.”
State officials have not identified the patient or anyone who has been quarantined.
The school said “out of an abundance of caution” it has decided to cancel in-school classes and instead hold “Virtual Days” at home Tuesday and Wednesday for students, faculty and staff as the ongoing campus sanitation continues. Also, after-school activities and practices, including sports, are canceled. Classes are scheduled to resume Wednesday.
“In this situation, the risk is low even for those who have traveled with the infected person. Only travelers who were on the Europe trip are required to be on self-quarantine by the RIDOH (Rhode Island Department of Health), and they have been contacted,” the statement read. “Please keep the SRA community in your prayers.”
The results of the man’s positive test were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final confirmation, Dr. Nichole Alexander-Scott, the state’s director of health, said. Rhode Island’s lab used the same test that the CDC will repeat, she said.
The first reported death in the U.S. from the virus was confirmed Saturday in Seattle, prompting the governor of Washington to declare a state of emergency. The U.S. has about 60 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China. Worldwide, the number of people sickened by the virus hovered Friday around 83,000, and there were more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.
Most infections result in mild symptoms, including coughing and fever, though some can become more serious and lead to pneumonia. Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disease, are especially vulnerable. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
The number of cases in the United States is considered small. But that number is expected to grow, and health agencies have been ramping up efforts to identify those who may be sick.
Outreach to those who have been in direct contact with the person in Rhode Island is ongoing. The agency said there are extensive efforts underway to ensure those people undergo a period of 14 days of self-monitoring for symptoms at home with public health supervision. About 40 people are being monitored.
The man’s immediate family members have been self-quarantining at home since it was determined that, based on his travel history and symptoms, he met the criteria to be evaluated for the virus. Alexander-Scott said an unspecified amount of people with symptoms are being tested, but it’s “not a large number.”
The infected man had limited travel in Rhode Island since returning from Italy and had not gone to his place of work since returning.
The CDC is managing the efforts to trace people on this person’s return flight to the United States.
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