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Mental health hospital suspends staff vacation due to COVID cases

A state-run psychiatric hospital in Rhode Island has suspended all medical staff vacation in response to a rising number of coronavirus cases among patients and workers.

“We regretfully are canceling all direct care patient support vacations” effective midnight Nov. 25, according to a letter to Eleanor Slater Hospital staff, The Providence Journal reported.

The letter also said, “We hope this vacation hold is temporary as we recognize the hard work and dedication of our staff and the need for time off.”

The letter was signed by Kathryn Power, director of the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, which oversees the Cranston facility.

A Slater spokesperson earlier this week confirmed that 14 patients and 35 staffers had tested positive for the virus.

Another hospital group, Lifespan, previously issued an appeal for retired doctors and nurses to return to work, and even sought medical students and interns, to help relieve the medical staff shortage. Lifespan operates Rhode Island, Miriam, Hasbro Children’s and Newport hospitals.

There were 1,525 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 11 more virus-related fatalities in Rhode Island in the past two days, the state Department of Health reported Friday.

The department did not provide updated statistics on Thanksgiving Day, when most testing sites were closed because of the holiday.

The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has now risen over the past two weeks from more than 716 on Nov. 12 to almost 767 on Thursday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

The 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island was 5.89% on Thursday, down from over 6% two days prior, but still higher than it was two weeks ago.

State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island, the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The state’s death toll from the disease is now 1,346 patients.

The number of people in the state’s hospitals with the disease was down to 319 as of Wednesday, the latest day for which the data were available, the second consecutive day it has dropped. Of those, 37 are in intensive care.

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