Dr. Warcup: Rising Covid-19 cases causing concerns

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 5:30pm
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The newly-elected Town Council quickly jumped into a discussion on local Covid19 numbers, and how to keep the community safe during a virtual meeting on Monday, Dec. 7.

Block Island Medical Center Director Dr. Tom Warcup presented some grim news: new Covid cases were climbing on the island.

“Today was another difficult day, and I think we are entering a real challenging time for Block Island. Last week, we had approximately 10 new positive Covid-19 cases and today we had four,” said Warcup. He added he has been in touch with a family unit on the island that could potentially add at least another 10 positive Covid-19 cases.

Newly sworn-in First Warden André Boudreau asked Warcup to provide the total number of cases on Block Island since March.

“If the extended families are positive, it would be in the low 40s,” said Warcup.

“Without that, we are still up in the 30s?,” asked Boudreau.

“Yes, high 30s,” said Warcup.

Boudreau asked “Out of that 40, what number would you put on that since October or September?”

“I would say 30 of them are from that point, and 20 of those 40 are in the last 10 days. It’s blossomed for us,” said Warcup. He noted that in the past he had seen many asymptomatic cases, but “in the last 10 days we have been seeing more symptomatic respiratory symptoms.”

Warcup pointed out the most common trends that may be responsible for the Covid-19 case increases: one member of a family unit travelling back and forth to the mainland or other New England states; people coming to their homes on the island and not quarantining; and small family gatherings taking place with expanded family units or close knit circles.

The council also expressed concerns with the upcoming holiday season, with the possibility of travelers coming to the island from out of state who may not be quarantining for the required amount of time.

New member Keith Stover asked “what is the rule on out of state travelers quarantining in Rhode Island?”

“When people are coming from some of these hotspots, they are supposed to quarantine for 10 days,” said Warcup. “The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] did shorten the 14-day cycle to a 10-day cycle, given the virus shedding is not infectious on day 11.”

“I don’t think there is 10-day quarantining coming from people from out-of-state,” added Warcup.

New member Mark Emmanuelle asked Town Manager Maryanne Crawford to reach out to the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Council, island businesses and rentals “to make sure the message is out there” with the rules of quarantining for individuals from out of state.

Stover and newly elected Second Warden Sven Risom also expressed interest in having new signage placed in town that includes similar verbiage for the current status of quarantining.

“It’s not just mask wearing, it’s about not having contact with anybody... if there’s a rule, we ought to be enforcing it,” said Stover.

Testing at school

Warcup addressed an expanded testing program at the Block Island School, and announced a vaccination site will be made available at the Medical Center in the near future. 

“The school district has secured the BinaxNOW testing equipment. This allows for the teachers and the students to have exclusive access to a rapid Covid-19 test, but again, these are specifically meant for students and teachers only. The rest of our community will still have access to the Fire Barn on Tuesdays and Thursdays; Tuesdays with [Rescue Capt.] Tracy Fredericks and Thursdays with [Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team]. And certainly, the [Block Island Health Services] will take on any symptomatic testing,” said Warcup.

“Fortunately, the BIMC will be a vaccination site for Covid-19. We will probably get it directly after the new year. We will be able to do vaccinations, and people won’t have to travel to the mainland,” said Warcup. The first wave of vaccine shots will be available for all registered EMS personnel, BIHS employees and individuals at the vaccination site, and the police department, eventually “rolling forward into the community.”

The current Town Council members are as follows: First Warden André Boudreau, Second Warden Sven Risom, and Councilors Martha Ball, Mark Emmanuelle and Keith Stover.

“I congratulate my fellow Town Council members, and I look forward to working with all of you,” said Boudreau.