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Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Rise of COVID in RI brings back masking

With COVID numbers rising, Lifespan reinstates masking policy

By Alexander Castro, Rhode Island Current

A two-fold increase in the average number of COVID cases has led the state’s largest health system to reinstate masking policies at the end of 2023.

Patients are now required to wear a surgical mask when being treated or examined at any Lifespan-affiliated medical offices or its four acute care hospitals. 

But patients are not required to wear them in waiting rooms, or when alone or with a guest in a room, Lifespan spokesperson Kathleen Hart confirmed in an email. 

Lifespan issued an advisory to “ensure awareness of, and clarity on, the policy,” Hart said.

“So if just a patient is in the room alone, they do not have to wear the mask, but when a caregiver comes in both the caregiver and patient need to put on the Level 2 mask,” Hart explained.

Lifespan’s four hospitals — Rhode Island, Hasbro Children’s and The Miriam Hospitals in Providence, plus Newport Hospital — observed a daily average of 41 positive COVID cases in December 2023. In Nov. 2023, the daily average had been 21 cases. 

The masking policies were reinstated on Dec. 28, 2023. As of Jan. 9, the average number of positive COVID cases across all four hospitals was 71, a Lifespan news release reported.      

Joseph Wendelken, a Rhode Island Department of Health spokesperson, said the state still tracks positive cases, but raw case numbers are no longer the focus of COVID monitoring in the state. 

“Because so much testing is now done with at-home tests (which are not reported to the state), we focus less on case counts when assessing the COVID-19 landscape,” Wendelken said in an email.  

COVID-related trips to the ER, hospital admissions and wastewater are now the go-to metrics. 

Wendelken noted increases in the statewide data similar to Lifespan’s numbers: “In late November we started to see increases across most of our COVID-19 metrics. It continued into January. Our modeling anticipated an increase around this time…This is similar to the increases we have seen over the last few years at this time.”



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