Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) today announced that Rhode Island’s first case of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant (variant B.1.1.529) has been identified. The case was identified through the ongoing genomic surveillance program coordinated by RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories.

Governor Mckee’s office says in a press release that McKee will be announcing a comprehensive set of actions early next week to address the increased number of COVID-19 cases and alleviate pressures on our hospital systems while at the same time keeping our schools open for in-person learning and preventing economic disruptions to our small businesses. The comprehensive set of actions the Governor is focused on are vaccination, testing, masking and staffing capacity. The Governor is continuing to meet with his whole of government team over the weekend to finalize the executive actions he will undertake.

“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 McKee in a press release. “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. We know the best way to protect ourselves from Delta, Omicron or any other variant is to get vaccinated, get boosted, get tested and consider wearing a mask in crowded public places. I want to thank the staff at our State Health Lab who have been working diligently to sequence more test results than ever before. Together, we can keep each other safe and healthy throughout the holiday season.”

“Given the recent findings of the Omicron variant in our region, it is not at all surprising that we have identified this case in Rhode Island,” said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH in a press release. “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. 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.”
The individual who tested positive is a person in their 20s who lives in Providence County and recently returned from travel in New York. The individual completed a primary vaccination series and had no record of a booster shot. Contact tracing on this case is ongoing.

RIDOH has detailed data on variants identified in Rhode Island posted online.

RIDOH says that COVID-19 vaccine helps protect against the Omicron variant of COVID-19. However, booster doses are particularly important in providing additional protection. Everyone older than 5 years of age should get a primary series of COVID-19 vaccine. Everyone older than 16 should get a booster dose. (If you got Pfizer or Moderna for your primary series, you should get a booster dose at least six months later. If you got Johnson & Johnson for your primary series, you should get a booster dose at least two months later.)

There are dozens of locations to get vaccinated throughout Rhode Island every day. These include vaccination clinics in schools, churches, senior centers, many other community sites, pharmacies, and the offices of many primary care providers. For more information on where to get vaccinated against COVID-19, see covid.ri.gov/vaccination.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).