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Rhode Island health system halts hospital visits as COVID outbreak worsens

PeopleImages/iStockBy ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Rhode Island’s largest health care system, Lifespan, has suspended visitation in its hospitals as the state’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and positivity testing rate continue to rise.

“Care teams will encourage the use of devices such as smartphones to communicate with patients remotely, and, when available, the use of iPads for virtual visits,” Lifespan said on its website.

If patients don’t have a device to use for virtual visits, according to its website, Lifespan will provide one.

Exceptions to the rule, which went into effect Monday, include Hasbro Children’s Hospital, which allows one parent to visit at a time and Newport Hospital’s maternity ward, which allows one birthing partner per patient. One adult may accompany a patient arriving in the emergency department, and that visitor’s stay will be limited.

As of Tuesday, Rhode Island had reported 34,543 cumulative COVID-19 cases and 1,212 related deaths, according to the state health department. Rhode Island’s testing positivity rate was 3.3% this week, which is lower than the 5% threshold the World Health Organization recommends governments get their positivity testing below.

Still, that rate has been slowly rising since September, and combined with increasing cases and hospitalizations, it suggests Rhode Island’s outbreak is moving in the wrong direction.

On a national level, hospitals are filling — 21% of hospitals across the country had more than 80% of their ICU beds filled the week of Oct. 24 through Oct. 30, compared to 17% to 18% during the summertime peak, according to an internal Health and Human Services memo obtained by ABC News.

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