PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The first case of the new virus COVID-19 was confirmed in Rhode Island, state public health officials announced Sunday.
The Rhode Island Department of Health said the person is in their 40s and had traveled to Italy in mid-February. State public health officials are working with the hospital where the unnamed person is currently being treated to ensure all infection control protocols are being followed.
The person tested positive for COVID-19, and those results were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final confirmation, Dr. Nichole Alexander-Scott, the state’s director of health, said Sunday at a press conference.
“At this point time, the general level of risk for Rhode islanders is low. There is no need for panic, there is no need to be frightened,” Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said at the press conference.
The first reported death in the U.S. from the novel coronavirus was confirmed Saturday in Seattle, prompting the governor of Washington to declare a state of emergency. The U.S. has about 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China. Worldwide, the number of people sickened by the virus hovered Friday around 83,000, and there were more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.
Most infections result in mild symptoms, including coughing and fever, though some can become more serious and lead to pneumonia. Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disease, are especially vulnerable. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States is considered small. But that number is expected to grow, and health agencies have been ramping up efforts to identify those who may be sick.
Outreach to those who have been in direct contact with the person in Rhode Island has begun. The agency said there are extensive efforts underway to ensure those people undergo a period of 14 days of self-monitoring for symptoms at home with public health supervision, also known as a quarantine.
The individual in question had limited travel in Rhode Island since returning from Italy and had not gone to their place of work since returning. The person’s immediate family members have begun self-quarantining.
The CDC is managing the efforts to trace people on this person’s return flight to the United States.