Everything You Need to Know About COVID-19 in Rhode Island

Cases are trending downward, but COVID-19 transmission in Rhode Island remains high


  • Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, one of the most public figures in the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, announced earlier this month she is stepping down from her post as director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. Tom McCarthy, deputy director and head of the state’s COVID-19 response team, also plans to leave his post at the end of this month.
  • Alexander-Scott is expected to stay on as a consultant to the state until May at a fee of $46,000 per month. A team of health care professionals has been assembled to advise Governor Dan McKee on her replacement.
  • Though it’s unclear where the health director is headed next, some are speculating she might run for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District seat after Congressman Jim Langevin announced his unexpected retirement last week.
  • While cases have been trending down in recent days, the resignations come as Rhode Island continues to grapple with the latest COVID-19 spike. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has deployed two teams of military medical professionals to Rhode Island Hospital and Kent Hospital to help hospitals handle the surge in COVID-19 patients amid staffing shortages.



  • As of December 20, face masks are now required in indoor spaces in Rhode Island with capacities of more than 250 people, per Governor Dan McKee’s executive order; in indoor spaces in Rhode Island with capacities of fewer than 250 people, face masks are required unless a person presents proof of vaccination via the CDC’s COVID-19 vaccination record card, a photo of the card or the state’s vaccine passport app, 401Health, which is available for download from the Apple Store or Google Play
    • This includes retail stores, restaurants, entertainment venues, venues of assembly, salons, gyms and other indoor spaces
    • In office-based work settings, both public and private, employees must wear masks if they have not provided proof of vaccination
    • Violators may incur a $500 penalty, per the executive order
    • “This is not a pause,” McKee says, adding that the measures are temporary and the executive order will be re-evaluated in thirty days
    • Children two and younger, as well as people with health conditions that prevent them from wearing masks and those with developmental disabilities, are not subject to the mask mandate
    • Professional athletes aren’t required to wear masks while playing, but student athletes are required to wear masks or present proof of vaccination in lower-capacity venues
  • Per the CDC, Americans are “required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States”



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On Monday, January 24, the state reported three new fatalities and 1,034 cases of COVID-19 from Sunday.

  • Rhode Island is in a period of high transmission of the coronavirus, with 1,672.2 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the last week.
  • 452 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with thirty-seven people in the ICU and twenty-five people on ventilators
  • Sunday’s testing saw a positivity rate of 13.2 percent
  • 3,253 people have died from COVID-19 in Rhode Island since the start of the pandemic
  • 332,961 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Rhode Island since the start of the pandemic



  • BOOSTER SHOTS: All Rhode Island adults, plus teens age sixteen and seventeen, who completed their primary vaccination schedule at least six months ago are now eligible for Pfizer or Moderna boosters.
    • The CDC’s recommendations allow for mix and match dosing for boosters
    • Visit vaccinateri.org to schedule your appointment
  • Rhode Island parents can sign up their young children, ages five to eleven, for Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine
    • Visit VaccinateRI.org or call 844-930-1779 to schedule a vaccination appointment.
    • The dosing schedule is two shots, three weeks apart.
    • Click here for a list of school clinics in your community
    • In Pfizer-BioNTech’s main clinical trial of 2,248 participants, the vaccine appeared to be 90.3 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19 for ages five to eleven.
    • No cases of myocarditis, or heart inflammation, were detected in the trial
  • View and print your vaccine record here: portal.ri.gov/vaccinerecord/s
    • The state’s new vaccine passport app, called 401Health, is available for download from the Apple Store or Google Play


  • NEW TESTING SITES: The state recently opened several new testing sites in response to demand, including a drive-through site in the parking lot of the Warwick CCRI campus that offers rapid antigen testing 24/7. Visit portal.ri.gov to schedule a test at a state-run test site.
  • The state is hosting pop-up rapid testing events (walk-up; no appointment necessary) in some community settings
  • Some CVS pharmacies in Rhode Island offer self-swab COVID-19 tests for adults eighteen and older. Click here to make an appointment.
  • Asymptomatic testing is encouraged for all Rhode Islanders; schedule a test at portal.ri.gov


 visit back2schoolri.com for info

  • Rhode Island’s public schools are requiring masks for all students and personnel, regardless of vaccination status
    • This comes on the heels of an August 17 vote by the Rhode Island Council on Elementary and Secondary Education ordering the Department of Education not to approve district back-to-school plans without mask mandates, effectively mandating masks in public schools across the state.


  • Domestic travelers: Regardless of vaccination status, travelers visiting or returning to Rhode Island are not currently required to quarantine or get tested. The Rhode Island Department of Health is recommending all travelers follow the quarantine and testing guidance from the CDC, which includes getting a test and quarantining for seven days after travel (for unvaccinated travelers) or monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms (for vaccinated travelers).
  • International travelers: Anyone traveling into the United States by plane, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, must currently show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day before travel to the United States. Travelers who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents must also show proof of vaccination. Read more about Rhode Island travel restrictions here.


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COVID-19 in Rhode Island: FAST FACTS

  • Symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath and lost of taste and/or smell
    • Visit the Rhode Island COVID-19 self-checker at covidselfchecker.ri.gov for guidance on making coronavirus-related health care decisions based on CDC guidelines
  • If you’re showing symptoms, call your health care provider first; if you don’t have one, contact a nearby urgent care.
  • The Crush COVID RI app, a contact tracing, location tracking and symptom management application for smartphones, is available for download in the Apple App Store and Google Play.
  • Call 401-222-8022 with general questions about COVID-19 or visit the Rhode Island Department of Health website for the latest information
  • Call Rhode Island’s BH Link at 401-414-5465 if you need mental health help or are struggling with substance abuse; for children, call Kids’ Link at 1-855-543-5465


Editor’s note: This story is updated frequently.