PROVIDENCE — Gov. Gina M. Raimondo blamed Providence College students bouncing from party to party while not wearing masks for Rhode Island landing on the list of states whose residents cannot travel to Connecticut, New York and New Jersey without quarantining for 14 days upon their arrival.
Raimondo also faulted, though to a lesser degree, students at the University of Rhode Island, in remarks Wednesday at her weekly briefing on the state’s response to the pandemic.
“Behavior like that this year endangers other people’s lives, and it’s incredibly selfish,” Raimondo said.
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“If you think it’s fun to have those parties, which lead to an outbreak … it’s hurting the whole state,“ the governor said. ”It’s not a joke. We’re hurting people because of our selfishness, and we know that following the rules matters.“
Raimondo reported that about 150 students at Providence College have tested positive, plus about 40 at URI. The number at PC rose later in the day to 191.
That has pushed Rhode Island, which had been averaging seven to eight new cases a day per 100,000 population, above the 10-cases-a-day benchmark that Connecticut, New York and New Jersey use to determine who must quarantine when visiting their states.
“We’re all feeling the consequences of these outbreaks at Providence College, and to a lesser extent at URI,” Raimondo said. “To all the people at PC who played a hand in this, these are real consequences. This is hurting people’s business in Rhode Island.”
Raimondo said that, because of the size of the outbreak at PC, authorities have issued a stay-at-home order for students there. “To the students at Providence College, I’m asking you to obey the stay-at-home order, because this isn’t right, what’s happening.”
Raimondo said the state’s investigation found that the outbreaks at the two colleges did not stem from a single, large party at either campus. Rather, she said, it was from people moving between small gatherings, effectively exposing themselves to a large number of people over a short period of time.
“Many students were moving between houses, between floors in the house,” she said, referring to the PC outbreak.
At URI, investigators found that people were sharing drinks and eating off the same plates, Raimondo said..
Raimondo implored Rhode Islanders to limit the size of their social networks, the total number of people they see from day to day, not just to keep below 15 people at any given event.
The governor shared some good news at the briefing: the percentage of people taking coronavirus tests who test positive has remained low, about 1.5%, well below the threshold of concern, which is 5%.
Rhode Island has exceeded the limit on the daily average of cases — which is 6 for Massachusetts travel and 10 for Connecticut, New York and New Jersey — because it is testing far more people each day than most other states.
Raimondo said that she has been trying to parlay that into a reprieve for Rhode Islanders traveling out of state.
“I have been in touch with the governors of these states … trying to prevail upon them to relax their travel restrictions and take into account the fact that Rhode Island … is a safe place,” she said. “I’m asking them to use a percent positive instead of number of tests. So far, I have not been successful.”
That means that the only nearby state that Rhode Islanders can visit without quarantining is New Hampshire, though residents of Washington County can visit Vermont, because the Green Mountain State’s travel restrictions are by visitors’ counties of residence.
State Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, who also spoke at the briefing, reported that 77 students, teachers and staff associated with schools whose students are in kindergarten through 12th grade have tested positive.
Alexander-Scott said that 44 of those were people who have not been in school buildings but rather involved in distance learning, while 33 have been at school in person.
Of the 44 distance-learning cases, 40 have been students and four have been teachers and staff.
Of the 33 in-person-learning cases, 19 have been students and 14 have been teachers and staff, she said. Those 33 cases have been spread among 25 schools. Where there have been multiple cases in a single school, Alexander-Scott said, investigators have traced the virus to out-of-school exposure, such as siblings or friends socializing.
Alexander-Scott said that none of the academic cases, neither K-12 nor college, has resulted in hospitalization as far as the Health Department knows.
Also on Wednesday, the Health Department reported three coronavirus-related deaths and 133 additional cases of COVID-19.
Of the 133 newly reported cases, 121 were positive tests from Tuesday and 12 were added to previous days’ totals.
That brings the total toll in the state to 1,102 deaths and 24,177 known cases.
There were 86 patients with coronavirus in Rhode Island hospitals on Monday, the most recent date for which data were available, up from 81 the day before. Nine were in intensive care; five were on ventilators.
In addition to the 133 positive tests, the state reported 9,609 additional negative tests, for a 1.4% positive rate. If only those testing negative for the first time are counted, the positive rate was 4.9%.
Rhode Island has reported an average of 117 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the last seven days (11 cases per 100,000 people), compared with 97 cases per day a week ago and 98 cases per day a month ago.