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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Health issues challenge Rhode Island

From COVID to West Nile

By Will Collette

Ah, crap. I think it’s fair to say that we are all sick and tired of so much sickness and tiredness. But we still have the option of constructive, aggressive tactics to fight the spread of diseases like COVID, as well as tick and mosquito borne diseases.

Despite the onset of winter, we are still under threat from tick bites and the diseases they carry because they are persistent little bastards who will even bite us when there’s snow on the ground. As for mosquitos, the RI Health Department just put out a surprise announcement that two residents have confirmed cases of mosquito-borne diseases.

There have been two confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in South County; fortunately both victims recovered without needing hospitalization. 

The Health Department also confirmed the first case of Jamestown Canyon Virus seen in Rhode Island in almost 10 years. It was caught by a 50 year old in Kent County who needed hospital treatment but has since recovered.

And now, COVID news

But the main event is COVID. Even though Rhode Island has a commendable rate of vaccination, we still have enough COVIDiots left to drive our community infection rates to terrible levels.

I have mentioned in the previous articles that on July 4, our community transmission rate was only 12 per 100,000 people. Today, RIDOH lists that rate as 557.7, or almost 50 times higher than the summer.

The state’s “action level” for community transmission is 100 per 100,000. But now we’re running at a rate roughly equal to last winter’s awful peak.

We’re 52 people shy of hitting an official death toll of 3,000.

Last week, the Providence Journal ran numbers for each town. Here’s what they had for Charlestown:

COVID cases in Charlestown, RI

24 Cases Last 7 Days 

300.1 Cases Last 7 Days/100K People

914 Cumulative Cases

Most alarming are the 129 hospitalizations of Charlestown residents for COVID reported by the Health Department for November, our highest since the pandemic began. Our transmission rate was 1,491 per 100,000 in November, our second highest reading.

As of yesterday, there were no reported cases of the new Omichron variant; almost every Rhode Island case is the dangerous Delta variant.

Our dazed and confused Gov. Dan McKee
With cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising again, we have to ask WHY? We have three FDA-approved vaccines that are safe, effective and free. Yet here we are still. Again, WHY?

72.2% of Charlestown’s residents have been fully vaccinated. That’s great even though it is below the statewide number. 

However, that number also means  that one out of four Charlestown residents is NOT vaccinated.

These people will almost certainly get COVID, if not the Delta strain, then Omichron. They will spread it to others – very young children are among the hardest hit right now. They will cause breakthrough infections among those of us who are fully vaccinated.

Statewide, there are still 114,682 people who are eligible to be vaxxed but are not. They too will almost certainly get sick and will pass it on to others.

I don’t care about their excuses or their politics. They pose a menace to the rest of us. Some countries are beginning to deal with COVIDiots by quarantining them in their homes. I think that’s a great idea.

Statistics show that COVID is fast becoming a Republican disease (seriously) and this is driven by the false statements from Trump and his minions, and is revved up by the far-right media, from Fox (which has its own vaccine mandate for Fox employees but hates mandates everywhere else) to the far fringes of Q-Anon.

Our state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi revels in the resistance by anti-vaxxers even in other countries and will not reveal his own vaccine status. Insurrectionist Rep. Justin Price seems opposed to ALL vaccines, as does state Senator Elaine Morgan. 

OK, guys. Can’t you work the numbers and figure out that you’re killing your own voter base?

Then there’s accidental Governor Dan McKee whose limited mind can handle only one issue at a time – and at the moment, that’s small business. So he balks at enforcing his own vaccine mandate for health care workers and will not even consider reinstating indoor mask mandates and social distancing even though COVID is out of control in Rhode Island.

General Treasurer Seth Magaziner who hopes to send McKee into retirement (as opposed to his current state of semi-retirement) called for swift and decisive action:

"As the number of new cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to rise, we must take smart precautions to protect the health of Rhode Islanders while keeping the economy open," said General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. "I urge the Governor and all Rhode Islanders to take the recent surge in cases seriously and take appropriate action. COVID-19 is still with us, and we need every Rhode Islander to do their part – get vaccinated and sign up for your booster as soon as possible."

Magaziner is also calling for these steps:

  • Reinstate a universal mask mandate for all people, regardless of vaccination status, for both indoor as well as crowded outdoor settings where individuals cannot maintain at least six feet of social distancing between themselves and others not in their household.  
  • Allocate CARES Act funding to mitigate the statewide staffing shortages at hospitals, nursing homes, group homes, and other healthcare settings.  
  • Employers who can provide accommodations for employees to work remotely without impacting operations should do so as soon as possible.  
  • Institute a statewide vaccination requirement for all teachers and school staff. 
  • All eligible Rhode Islanders should sign up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and get a booster