Rhode Island, the smallest state in the U.S., has seen the country’s fastest spread of the coronavirus in the last week.
The New England state recorded about 123 new cases per 100,000 people each day over the last week, marking the country’s highest average daily COVID-19 cases per capita, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. By comparison, neighboring Connecticut has averaged about 76 new cases per 100,000 people each day in the last week.
There have been over 68,000 confirmed cases in Rhode Island since the beginning of the pandemic and at least 1,484 deaths. Roughly 9,200 of those cases and at least 92 of those deaths were recorded in the last week.
Though Rhode Island is the smallest state by area, several other states ― including Wyoming and Vermont ― have fewer people. In fact, Rhode Island is one of the most densely populated states in the U.S., with about 1 million people living across its roughly 1,200 square miles.
Dr. Megan Ranney, a Brown University emergency room physician, suggested Rhode Island’s population density could be a major contributing factor to its rapid COVID-19 spread in recent weeks.
“We are the 2nd most densely populated state, with lots of multi-family and multi-generational homes,” Ranney tweeted Wednesday. “This leads to fast spread, simply because people can’t distance from each other … We also have a lot of poverty, a lot of essential workers, & a lot of immigrants. And we know that economic & racial inequity are major drivers of transmission of the virus.”
The state’s disturbing surge on infections comes amid a two-week statewide “pause” imposed by Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) in an effort to curb contagion. The pause places new temporary restrictions on social gatherings and indoor dining capacity, closes bars and recommends remote work for all employees.
Rhode Island opened at least two field hospitals in recent weeks after the state’s conventional hospitals announced they had reached their COVID-19 capacity. Doctors and public health officials have warned hospitalizations will likely continue to surge in the weeks following Thanksgiving.
COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations have continued to climb at a devastating pace across the country in recent months. The U.S. reported at least 3,124 coronavirus-linked deaths on Wednesday, a grim new record.
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