Message from the Block Island Medical Center regarding COVID-19

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 7:30am

To the Block Island Community,

As many of you are aware, the first case of COVID-19, otherwise known as Coronavirus, has been identified in Rhode Island in a 44-year-old man, a traveler returning from Italy.

BIHS is following the guidelines and protocols of the RIDOH and we are collaborating closely with the Town of New Shoreham Emergency Task Force to ensure that our community is prepared should cases of COVID-19 become more prevalent in Rhode Island or affect our Block Island Community directly. We will keep you informed of any developments important for the health of our community.

At a news conference earlier today, Governor Raimondo and RI Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott reiterated that this development was anticipated, and together they called for a calm and common-sense response from all Rhode Islanders. Coronaviruses are most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, so its important to take the same measures that are recommended every year to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses:

  • If you, your child or someone you know is mildly ill with sniffles or cold symptoms, the best course of action is to stay home. Do not go to school or work until your symptoms are completely resolved. Most illnesses occurring at this time are still due to flu, colds and other viruses, and are best cared for at home. If you are not sure whether or not you or a loved one needs evaluation, call the Medical Center before coming in and we will advise you of the best next step and ensure that you receive appropriate guidance and any medical interventions that are appropriate.
  • The RIDOH recommends you get your flu shot if you haven’t already done so this year. Although the flu shot doesn’t protect against COVID-19, the flu shot will help keep you healthy and lessen the chances of your being admitted to a health care facility for treatment where the risk of exposure to other illnesses is higher.
  • Wash your hands often throughout the day. Use warm water and soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel. This is the single most important and effective preventive measure that can be taken.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Viruses may spread through coughing or sneezing on other people or into your hands. Cover your coughs and sneezes to prevent others from getting sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods. Maintaining a healthy life style is the best defense. We know that viruses are more dangerous when our immune defenses are weakened by poor nutrition, stress, lack of sleep and lack of exercise. Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol also weaken the immune system, leaving people more prone to infection.
  • Keep surfaces (especially bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, and toys for children) clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant.
  • The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. 
  • Some members of our community have been traveling over the Winter break. Anyone who has recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19 (China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan) and who has symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath, should reach out to a health care professional if on the mainland, or reach out to the Medical Center if on island. It is very important to call ahead before going to a healthcare facility. The healthcare provider or facility will work closely with RIDOH to care for you and minimize the spread of COVID-19Maintain.
  • Testing for COVID-19 at this time is only available through the RIDOH at the state laboratory, and the decision to test is made on a case by case basis under direction of the RIDOH. At this time testing is only being performed for symptomatic individuals who are determined by DOH to have increased risk based on factors including potential exposure to the virus or travel to a high-risk area. We will be monitoring any changes in testing criteria from the DOH.

More information about the virus is available from the CDC at the following link:

The Medical Center can be reached at (401) 466-2974 ext. 3



Mark Clark, MD

Medical Director/CEO