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First Omicron variant case detected in Rhode Island

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 12/11/2021 Alexa Gagosz
text, letter: A health care worker carries a COVID-19 specimen from a motorist at a testing site. © David Goldman A health care worker carries a COVID-19 specimen from a motorist at a testing site.

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island has identified its first known case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, public health officials announced Saturday.

The case was detected in a woman in her 20s who lives in Providence County. The individual recently returned to Rhode Island from New York and had previously completed their primary vaccination series. She did not receive a booster shot, according to the health department.

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the state health department, told the Globe that the woman was tested on Nov. 30, but that the variant was identified Saturday morning. She was not hospitalized but was symptomatic, he said.

“We fully expected that Omicron would eventually be detected in Rhode Island as it has been in our neighboring states. I want to be clear: Rhode Island is prepared. This is not cause for panic,” said Governor Dan McKee. “Just like when the Delta variant was identified in Rhode Island, Rhode Islanders will come together to take the actions necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones.”


Video: More cases of Omicron coronavirus variant confirmed in U.S. (CBS News)

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The governor’s office said late Friday that McKee would be announcing a “comprehensive set of actions early next week” to address the increased number of new COVID-109 cases to alleviate pressures on the hospital systems and to keep schools open for in-person learning.

Many have pressed the McKee administration for weeks to issue a mask mandate, but he has not imposed one, citing Rhode Island’s high vaccination rate and the importance of an economic recovery. It’s unclear if an indoor mask mandate would be included in his announcement next week.

There’s a political war in Rhode Island over mask mandates and COVID

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said in a statement Saturday that it was “not at all surprising” that Rhode Island has identified its first case based on recent findings of the Omicron variant around New England.

“However, the identification of Omicron, coupled with the fact that people are moving indoors, underscores the need for Rhode Islanders to continue to protect themselves and their families,” said Alexander-Scott. “Vaccination, booster doses, mask wearing, testing, social distancing, and ventilation are all critical to minimizing the spread of any variant of COVID-19. In advance of the holidays, these measures are more important than ever.”

Earlier this week, state health officials said Rhode Island is winding down operations at its large coronavirus vaccination sites in favor of more community-based vaccination clinics, the Associated Press reported.

The state Department of Health, in response to public input, will run about 100 COVID-19 vaccination clinics at schools, churches, senior centers, and other community sites over the next month. Vaccines will continue to be available at retail pharmacies as well as many doctor’s offices.

The remaining state-run and municipal-run vaccination sites will end vaccination operations. The Sockanosset Cross Road site in Cranston, which has administered about 211,000 doses since opening in January, will end vaccination operations on Dec. 18, the department said.

The last day for regular operations at the East Providence vaccination site will be Dec. 29.

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