Health department confirms RI’s first presumptive coronavirus case


EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Department of Health has identified a person in their 40s who traveled to Italy in mid-February as the state’s first presumptive positive case of coronavirus.

The health department said the person is being treated at the hospital and all infection control protocols are being followed but did not specify which hospital is treating the patient.

The patient’s immediate family members have quarantined themselves since the person started showing symptoms after traveling abroad, according to health officials.

RIDOH Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott and Gov. Gina Raimondo have scheduled a news conference for 11:45 a.m. Sunday to discuss these developments. Eyewitness News plans to stream it live right here on

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now working to track down the other passengers who were on the patient’s return flight from Italy. We’re told the patient has not gone back to work since returning to the U.S. and has had limited travel in Rhode Island.

The health department is reaching out to people who were in direct contact with this patient. Those people will undergo a 14-day quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms.

“The Rhode Island Department of Health has been preparing for weeks to ensure that we have a structure in place to, to the best of our ability, limit or prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Rhode Island. We fully anticipated having a first case of COVID-19,” Dr. Alexander-Scott said in a statement, adding that they are not seeing widespread community transmission and that the statewide risk remains low.

Health officials asking people to wash their hands regularly, cover their mouths and noses when coughing and sneezing, and stay home if they’re sick.

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The State Health Laboratories have been working to develop the capacity to test for the virus in Rhode Island, which led to this first case being identified. Each “presumptive” case must still be confirmed by the CDC, according to the health department.

Health experts are urging anyone showing symptoms of coronavirus (fever, cough, shortness of breath) to contact a doctor and call ahead before going to a doctor’s office. Experts say you can help prevent its spread, and the spread of other viruses, by washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, keep surfaces clean, and get your flu shot.

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