PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — More than 2,000 Rhode Islanders have now died of coronavirus-related complications, the state Department of Health said Friday.
With nine additional fatalities from the disease, the death toll is now 2,005.
The national death toll is nearly 389,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“The tragic loss of life is unfathomable and unforgiveable and the grief is immeasurable," Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said in an emailed statement. “We mourn every one of these individuals who COVID-19 has taken from us and we must redouble efforts to save lives and protect communities."
The department also reported 901 people who tested positive on Thursday, out of more than 19,200 tests, for a daily positivity ate of 4.7%.
The latest seven-day average positivity rate in Rhode Island is now 5.66%, down from almost 7% two weeks ago. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from more than 918 on Dec. 31 to almost 971 on Thursday.
The state Department of Health has suspended the license of a doctor investigators say deliberately exposed patients and staff to COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Farina presents “an immediate danger to the public" and has been suspended from practicing medicine indefinitely until further order of the Department of Health or the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline for an overall pattern of unprecedented willful misconduct, the department said.
The board’s investigative committee found that Farina, whose primary specialty is internal medicine, exposed staff and patients to COVID-19 after becoming symptomatic with a cough and fever in late November and that he continued to work and see patients even after testing positive days later, while wearing an N-95 mask incorrectly.
Farina told the committee that he actually had a sinus infection and didn't test positive for COVID-19 until Dec. 4, after which he isolated appropriately and wore an N-95 mask when in the office.
Although one witness told the committee that Farina passed the virus on to his employees, the committee did not indicate whether he had done so.
The committee also found other alleged violations, including writing prescriptions of controlled substances for immediate family members and creating a hostile work environment.
He has the right to hearing on the suspension. An email seeking comment was left with his attorneys Friday.
Farina is listed as the director/president of six medical clinics in the state.
Rhode Island is still struggling with an adequate vaccination supply, health officials say.
Dr. Philip Chan, consultant medical director for the sate Department of Health, said in a meeting Friday that there are continued questions to the department about why certain groups of people are getting vaccinated now and why others have to wait.
“The very simple answer is, the state of Rhode Island does not have the supply right now to vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated,” Chan said. “And if we could, we would absolutely definitely vaccinate everyone who wants one, and that is our goal eventually.”
The Rhode Island COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee also met Friday to outline the next steps for Phase 2 of the state’s vaccine distribution, but reached no firm conclusions.
The state has identified about 220,000 potential front-line essential workers that didn’t qualify for Phase 1, including about 36,000 who work in schools.
Before next week’s subcommittee meeting, the group plans to review the data and recommendations.
LIFESPAN VACCINE TRIAL
Rhode Island's largest health care organization is looking for volunteers to enroll in a COVID-19 vaccine trial.
Lifespan is one of about 115 sites in the U.S. and Mexico participating in the Phase 3 safety and efficacy trial of the vaccine being developed by Novavax, a Maryland-based pharmaceutical company, The Providence Journal reported.
Two-thirds of the participants in the randomized trial will receive the vaccine, with the remaining third receiving a placebo. After the trial, those in the placebo group will be eligible for the vaccine.
Several volunteers have received the vaccine or the placebo through Lifespan already, but the organization is looking for more. Novavax plans an enrollment of about 30,000 people in total.