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Rhode Island opens field hospitals as hospitalizations surge

December 1, 2020 GMT
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A passenger gets swabbed for COVID-19 at a testing site at the convention center in Providence, R.I, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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A passenger gets swabbed for COVID-19 at a testing site at the convention center in Providence, R.I, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island has opened two field hospitals that combined have more than 900 beds as the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state reached a new high.

There were 410 patients in the state’s hospitals with the disease as of Sunday, the most recent date for which the information was available, the state Department of Health reported Tuesday. That is the highest number of people hospitalized with the disease on a single day since the pandemic began.

Care New England opened a field hospital with more than 300 beds in Cranston on Monday, the same day the state sent an emergency alert saying conventional hospitals had reached their coronavirus capacity.

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A facility with nearly 600 beds opened Tuesday at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence. It is run by Lifespan, the state’s largest hospital group.

The Lifespan facility expects to admit 24 to 48 patients on Tuesday, but may need more staff, Chief Nursing Executive Cathy Duquette said.

“We are prepared to take up to 100 patients with the staff we have been able to get. If we see demand increasing, we will certainly reach out to get more from our agency partners,” she said.

Both field hospitals will take patients who are not critically ill.

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WRONG WAY TRENDS

Rhode Island’s seven-day rolling average of daily new cases and seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate continue to rise, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The average of daily news cases has gone from almost 845 on Nov. 16 to almost 898 on Monday.

The average of the positivity rate has risen over the past two weeks from 6.03% on Nov. 16 to nearly 7.5% on Monday.

State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The state Department of Health on Tuesday reported 1,043 new confirmed positive cases, out of almost 11,000 tests, a daily positivity rate of 9.5%. The state also reported seven more virus-related deaths, for a total of 1,380 fatalities.

Of the 410 people in the hospital, 41 were in intensive care. The state is averaging more than 50 new hospital admissions per day.

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PRISON OUTBREAK

The coronavirus continues to sweep through the Rhode Island state prison, with 600 total confirmed positive cases among inmates and staff as of Monday, according to the Department of Corrections.

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Of those cases, 488 are among prisoners and 112 are among staff, according to The Providence Journal.

The Adult Correctional Institutions’ maximum-security unit is the hardest hit, with 316 of its 354 prisoners and 40 staff testing positive in November.

One maximum-security inmate has been hospitalized, department spokesman J.R. Ventura said in an email.

The department did not distinguish between active and cleared cases in the November numbers. The department is taking measures to control the virus, authorities said.

Prisoner advocates are calling for the early release of some inmates for good behavior.

“They could let hundreds of people out early by restoring good time,” said Natalia Friedlander, a lawyer with the Rhode Island Center for Justice.