Two new presumptive cases of coronavirus in New England have been linked to a high school field trip to Europe dating back to mid-February, according to health officials, as the state tested a third person for the deadly virus.
A teenager was identified by Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) State Health Laboratories as a presumptive positive case of the novel coronavirus. The teenager and an adult in her 30s are undergoing tests; both went on the same school trip as the first presumptive positive case of the disease, a male in his 40s.
The trip, organized by high school Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, included stops in Italy, France, and Spain, reported WCVB.
The news comes as the death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy rose to 34 with 1,694 confirmed cases, and fears of community spread of the virus within the United States continue to grow.
As of March 1, 88 cases of the novel coronavirus had been identified in the United States, with New York’s first case confirmed on Sunday.
The first American to die from coronavirus was a man in his 50s with underlying conditions in Washington state, officials said Saturday. A second American, a man in his 70s with underlying health conditions, also died on Saturday after contracting coronavirus, according to a Sunday press release from Seattle and King County Public Health.
The two New England cases will remain presumptive until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms a positive test.
According to Saint Raphael Academy’s website, the male in his 40s is a staff member of the school community, and has not returned to the Catholic high school since arriving back to Rhode Island on Feb. 22.
The school, which is located on the Massachusetts border, will be closed for the remainder of this week while it is being sanitized, it said.
The teenager—the second presumptive positive case of coronavirus—remains at home with mild symptoms, the state Department of Health said.
The third adult pending tests results is a staff member at Achievement First Academy in Providence, which will remain closed for two days pending test results.
All 38 people who went on the school trip to Europe have been instructed to self-monitor at home for symptoms for 14 days with public health supervision. They have been instructed to not go to school or work and to remain at home during this time, according to a news release.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the state’s director of health, said the department had been preparing for weeks to limit or prevent the spread of the virus in Rhode Island.
“All three people went on the same trip to Italy,” Alexander-Scott said in a statement. “This is precisely why we are being so aggressive in identifying contacts, ensuring monitoring, and testing people who are symptomatic.”
“We fully anticipated having a first case of COVID-19,” Alexander-Scott said. “We are not seeing widespread community transmission in Rhode Island, and the general level of risk for Rhode Islanders is still low. However, everyone in Rhode Island has a role to play in helping us prevent the spread of viruses, just like the flu.”
She urged the public to wash their hands regularly, cover their coughs and sneezes, and to stay home if sick.