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Monday, August 9, 2021

Hard facts about Delta danger in South County

COVID cases are skyrocketing and many are pretending it's not happening

By Will Collette

Welcome to the third – or is it the fourth? – COVID-19 surge. 

While Rhode Islanders have been, for the most part, smart enough to get their vaccination shots, we are still experiencing a very large increase in cases and transmission rate that has moved the state into the Red Zone of “High Transmission.” 

As recently as June, our transmission rate was down close to 10 per 100,000 people. While not perfect, it was good enough to justify the re-openings.

But just in the past month, that rate has growth by more than 1,000% to around 140 per 100,000, driven by the Delta variant. 

Nearly all the new cases are among those who did not get vaccinated, including children under 12 who are not eligible.

In June, Charlestown’s rate of infection was ZERO but in July, it climbed to 334 per 100K.

That’s more than double the state’s overall rate of infection. Patch reports that South County as a whole reported a rate of 56 per 100K between July 27 and August 2.

COVID’s Delta variant is responsible for the rise in cases. It is extremely contagious, passing from an infected person to an uninfected person after just a few seconds of breathing the same air.

Break-through infections

Those of us who are vaccinated can catch it, though “breakthrough infections” are still rare and usually come with no symptoms or very mild ones.

So far in Rhode Island, only 0.26% - 1549 people – of fully vaccinated people have caught a breakthrough infection. 

Unfortunately, due to the collapse of the state’s testing system, there may be many more who simply don’t know they have it.

Even worse, according to Dr. Fauci and others, a Delta-infected, asymptomatic fully vaccinated person is carrying – and spreading – as much of a viral load as an unvaccinated infected person.

It’s gotten harder to find statistics on how many such breakthrough infections lead to hospitalization (or death), but the number is very low.

Nonetheless, the only way for everyone to be safe is for everyone to get vaccinated. 

Do it for the kids who are too young to be vaccinated. 

Do it for the immunocompromised, such as transplant patients, whose bodies don’t have the antibodies to fight off COVID even with the vaccine.

Do it for yourself and your family.

Stress on hospitals

Again thanks to Patch, we have data showing COVID’s impact on our two local hospitals: South County Hospital and Westerly Hospital.


  • ·         All adult inpatient beds: 82.7
  • ·         Inpatient beds occupied: 70.4
  • ·         Inpatient beds used by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients: N/A
  • ·         Percent of inpatient beds used: 85.13%
  • ·         Percent of inpatient beds used by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients: N/A
  • ·         All adult ICU beds: 7.3
  • ·         ICU beds occupied: 7
  • ·         ICU beds used by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients: N/A
  • ·         Percent of ICU beds used: 95.89%
  • ·         Percent of ICU beds used by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients: N/A


  • ·         All adult inpatient beds: 88
  • ·         Inpatient beds occupied: 59.7
  • ·         Inpatient beds used by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients: N/A
  • ·         Percent of inpatient beds used: 67.84%
  • ·         Percent of inpatient beds used by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients: N/A
  • ·         All adult ICU beds: 9
  • ·         ICU beds occupied: 6.4
  • ·         ICU beds used by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients: N/A
  • ·         Percent of ICU beds used: 71.11%
  • ·         Percent of ICU beds used by confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients: N/A

The economy

The national economy is doing quite well, with the jobless rate falling to the lowest level since the pandemic began – 5.4% - due largely to the COVID relief funding passed by Congressional Democrats against unanimous resistance from Republicans.

Rhode Island’s job growth has caused the unemployment rate to drop to 5.9%, higher than the national average, but heading in the right direction.

South County unemployment as a whole has been doing even better with an unemployment rate of only 5.2%.

However, Charlestown lags behind. Our unemployment rate has climbed over the past three months and now stands at 6.4%, higher than the rest of South County, the state and the country.

Comp Plan: no jobs for you

Charlestown’s ruling party, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) has no clue and no plan to deal with this. In fact, according to the CCA-written Charlestown Comprehensive Plan, newly approved by the state, Charlestown only anticipates job growth in tourism and services and then only seasonal.

The town of Charlestown is receiving $2.3 million in direct COVID relief from the feds but so far, there’s no hint as to how the CCA wants to spend it, except perhaps to buy more land for Planning Commissar Ruth Platner. 

Charlestown businesses have received another $8.3 million in federal COVID aid to keep or create jobs.

So why is Charlestown suffering higher unemployment than our neighbors and the rest of the state and why has it been rising? And where did that $10.6 million in COVID relief go?

Housing crisis

Charlestown has one of the worst affordable housing records in the state. Housing prices have skyrocketed and rentals are almost impossible to find, never mind afford.

The pandemic put renters under particular stress because they are more likely to work in lower paid jobs, have less in savings as well as little or no job security. 

That’s why the end of the moratorium on evictions was so scary – and the temporary reinstatement was a big relief.

Still, the fundamental problem of back rent remains so we need to continue to focus on Rhode Island’s failure to spend the $200 million it received from the feds.

There is at least $190 million available for rental assistance from Rhode Island Housing’s RentReliefRI program.

You can apply from RentReliefRI directly, or you can go through their South County sponsoring agency, Tri-County Community Action. If you are a tenant with back rent or a landlord who hasn’t gotten paid, you should apply ASAP before the money goes. If the money doesn’t get spent, it will go back to the feds.

But if the money goes to clear up unpaid rent, that money goes right into the Rhode Island economy.

Private companies issue their own mask policies

Here's McKee practicing for the 2024 Olympics
Because our accidental Governor Dan McKee does not have the guts to reinstate mask mandates, despite our Red Zone status, a number of retailers have taken action themselves.

As private businesses, they have the right to set reasonable standards for conduct by customers, no matter how many times maskholes try to invoke HIPAA or the Americans with Disabilities Act to evade following public health protocols for masking, social distancing, etc. 

Again courtesy of Patch, here are the masking policies at some local retailers:

Who Has To Mask Up: Face coverings are required for unvaccinated customers and employees, and optional for vaccinated customers.

Who Has To Mask Up: Citing a company memo to employees, Bloomberg reported that Apple reinstituted a mask requirement for shoppers and staff at most of its U.S. retail outlets.

Who Has To Mask Up: Employees, customers and visitors are required to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

Bed Bath & Beyond
Who Has To Mask Up: A mask mandate remains in place for shoppers and employees but exempts fully vaccinated customers "in U.S. locations where permitted by local order or law."

BJ's Wholesale
Who Has To Mask Up: While masks are optional for fully vaccinated customers and employees, unvaccinated persons and all shoppers and staff in BJ's optical departments are required to wear masks.

Who Has To Mask Up: Face coverings are required for employees and customers who are not fully vaccinated, and optional for those who are.

Home Depot
Who Has To Mask Up: The retailer issued a mask requirement for "all associates, contractors and vendors" at its U.S. stores. All customers will be asked to wear masks.

Who Has To Mask Up: Kohl's requires all employees in counties with a substantial or high risk of transmission to wear masks while in store. The company has also requested that customers in these areas wear masks.

Who Has To Mask Up: Lowe's employees are required to wear masks at all locations. Meanwhile, customers are encouraged to also wear masks.

Who Has To Mask Up: McDonald's has mandated that all customers and employees wear masks at locations in areas with high or substantial rates of COVID-19 transmission.

Who Has To Mask Up: Starbucks "strongly recommends" customers wear facial coverings regardless of vaccination status. Masks are required where mandated by local law or regulation. Starting Aug. 5, all store partners must wear face coverings.

Who Has To Mask Up: Target requires face coverings for all team members and strongly recommends face coverings for all customers in areas with a substantial or high risk of transmission.

TJX Companies
Who Has To Mask Up: The parent company of T.J.Maxx, Marshalls, Sierra and HomeGoods requires all employees and unvaccinated customers to wear face coverings, which remain optional for fully vaccinated customers.

Who Has To Mask Up: The company says masks "may be required" at Verizon locations and that its outlets follow "CDC guidelines and legal requirements."

Who Has To Mask Up: Employees regardless of vaccination status are required to mask up. Customers and employees who are not vaccinated are asked to continue wearing masks.

Who Has To Mask Up: All employees must wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status. Masks are encouraged for fully vaccinated customers and required for those unvaccinated.

Whole Foods
Who Has To Mask Up: Masks are required for unvaccinated customers and employees. Masks are optional for vaccinated customers and employees.

Speaking of Maskholes

Our anti-vaxxer trio: (L-R) Justin Price, Flip Filippi
and Elaine Morgan (photo by Steve Ahlquist)
It’s hard to talk about the pandemic without a shout-out to our three local maskhole anti-vaxxer state legislators who have worked so hard to make sure Rhode Island never gets full control of the pandemic: Charlestown state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi and state Senator Elaine Morgan as well as our insurrectionist neighbor state Rep. Justin Price who represents Richmond and other towns when he’s not too busy storming the US Capitol.

Flip's contribution to the anti-COVID effort has been to criticize accidental Gov. Dan McKee's renewal of the state emergency powers executive order. Just about every state issued such orders to enable their state to take swift action in the face of this public health crisis. 

The irony in Flip's tantrum over the executive order is that McKee doesn't have the balls to actually use it to reimpose mask mandates and other measures we need RIGHT NOW.

It takes a lot of energy to find so many ridiculous ways to argue against common sense public health measures, but maybe there are enough calories in Donald Trump’s special Kool-Aid® to power all that rage.

If you want to either be amused or appalled by how crazy the anti-vaxxers can be, read the Letter to the Westerly Sun by Linda Norton of Pawcatuck.

She addressed the question of why more people aren’t getting vaccinated this way: 

It is because all of the vaccines have either been tested on, or developed with, aborted fetal cells. All of them (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and J & J). Fact-checkers can double-check this if they want.”

Well, I did fact-check and it’s not true. It’s just another example of right-wing misinformation. Even Pope Francis pitched in encourage vaccinations as a moral imperative in a statement released by the Vatican News.

But beyond that, I have to question Ms. Norton’s alleged “pro-life” credentials. COVID has already taken 670,000 American lives and, especially in the Bible Belt, it is taking a whole lot more right now.

This time, COVID is killing kids - infants to grade schoolers. How can you be “pro-life” and put discredited “facts” about a tenuous connection to abortion over saving the lives of actual living people? Especially the kids.