The Rhode Island Department of Health has announced the first positive case of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the state, saying that a person who had traveled to Italy in mid-February contracted the illness.
The patient, who is in their 40s, had limited travel in Rhode Island and hasn’t returned back to work since arriving in the United States, according to state health officials on Sunday.
Northern Italy is the site of a COVID-19 outbreak. Officials there have placed the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto under quarantine and implemented other strict controls.
“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,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, in a statement.
State health workers are currently not observing community transmission of the virus in Rhode Islands, said Alexander-Scott, who said that the general risk to locals 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. It is very important that people wash their hands regularly, cover their coughs and sneezes, and stay home if they are sick,” she said.
State health officials are now investigating who has been in direct contact with the patient, and these people will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period at home with public health supervision, according to Alexander-Scott. Passengers who were on the same U.S.-bound flight as the person are also going to be contacted, she said.
“As long as anyone exposed to the individual does not have symptoms outside of their home setting, the virus cannot spread to other people in the community. This individual’s immediate family members have been self-quarantining at home since it was determined that, based on this person’s travel history and symptoms, the individual met the criteria to be evaluated for COVID-19,” she said.
Her statement added that people who have traveled to an area where there is widespread transmission of the new coronavirus should talk to their healthcare provider and call ahead before going to a medical facility if they experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, a cough, or a fever.
Federal officials on Saturday announced the first U.S. death of COVID-19, the disease the new coronavirus causes, in Washington state, identifying the casualty as a male in his 50s with underlying health problems. More than 70 virus cases have been confirmed in the United States.