Narragansett grapples with high positivity rate

COVID-19 positivity rates in Narragansett, Rhode Island are the ninth highest in the state at a 9 percent positivity rate after testing 32 percent of the town’s population.

As of Nov. 18, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) said the statewide positivity rate is 5.9 percent, a 3.9 percent increase from the previous week. 

According to Narragansett Town Manager James Tierney, 70 percent of the positive cases in the past 11 weeks found in the town were from University of Rhode Island residents. 

This positivity rate in URI students has gone down in the past couple weeks, as in the reporting week of Oct. 25-31, the case numbers in college students dropped down from double digits to single digits and decreased again in the reporting week of Nov. 1-7.

“Two months ago we were seeing significantly elevated rates in younger people, 18 to 24 year olds, and while those rates for that demographic are still a bit elevated, it’s actually leveled out a little bit more,” RIDOH Public Information Officer Joseph Wendelken said.

The processing for COVID-19 testing in Rhode Island, according to Wendelken, is done on a weekly basis instead of towns reporting daily numbers.

According to Wendelken, the residents tested in Rhode Island are mostly symptomatic people, so those tested will correspondingly reflect higher positivity rates. As a result, the college student demographic across the state has seen comparatively lower positivity rates as routine asymptomatic testing is conducted to identify any outbreaks before they are able to reach the community. 

There have been five documented cases where URI students were involved in large social gathering incidents which were reported to the RIDOH, as well as the University for disciplinary review, according to Tierney. 

“Some students play by the rules, some don’t,” Tierney said.

With the holiday season approaching and Thanksgiving next week, Wendelken urged people to stay local for Thanksgiving and celebrate with those they live with.

Wendelken said he understands that this season is one where many people travel to see loved ones. He said it is important for people celebrating the holiday with those outside of their household circle to keep windows open, weather permitting, social distance if possible and wear masks. 

“It’s going to be even more important around Thanksgiving: A. because of the case increases we’re seeing now and B. because people are going to be doing more traveling,” he said. “We’re trying to discourage traveling, but we recognize  that this is a time where people typically get together with family and friends.”

Small social gatherings have contributed to the spread of the virus, Wendelken emphasized. People who socialize in many different small groups, whether it be their work circle, sports circle or social circle, RIDOH has encouraged people to limit their group socialization which led to the stay at home advisory put out by Gov. Gina Raimondo. 

The advisory also aims to limit the amount of time people are out at places like restaurants and bars because the more time spent there without a mask, the higher the risk of contracting or transmitting the virus.

Wendelken reminded the community to practice the three W’s this holiday season: wear your mask, watch your distance and wash your hands.