Ph: 401.466.2974 | Fax: 401-466-5476 | DIAL 911 IN AN EMERGENCY [email protected]

BIHS COVID-19 Update
Sunday, May 17,  2020

Dear Block Island Community,

I am pleased to be at the Block Island Medical Center and familiarizing myself with the island and the community. The Health Center is back to core business and ready to assist with any of your healthcare needs.  Please note that we have put in new intake procedures to keep you and everyone safe when visiting the Health Center. 

There are no new suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our community at this time. This good news is the direct result of everyone’s diligence and care. As a phased re-opening is considered at both the State and local level, it is important to bear in mind the increased risk of exposure this brings to our community. It is inevitable that new cases of COVID-19 cases will be confirmed on the island. Now is NOT the time to let down our guard. What we can do is proactively plan for the season. The evidence from other communities and countries that have successfully ‘flattened the curve’ is useful in putting in place contingency plans, both at the Medical Center and as individuals. We will continue to provide status updates to the community and recommend evidence based best practices for health and safety.  Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis is a marathon, not a sprint, but together we can keep our community as healthy as possible.

 Stay vigilant!  

As Block Island and the State of Rhode Island moves into phased reopening, it is critical that we consider the implications and maintain safe health practices.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread in all states, including Rhode Island, and remains a threat to the health of our community. As of May 17, Rhode Island has 12,674 confirmed cases and 499 deaths. The sobering fact is the United States now has over 1.3 million cases and 84,000 deaths.  The immense human toll cannot be overstated.  This should not instill panic but should reinforce our commitment to do all we can to minimize spread ––through hand washing, wearing a face covering in public and social distancing–– while treatment and vaccine development takes place and while rapid testing becomes available.

COVID-19 TESTING on Block Island status update

  • Serologic Testing: The Medical Center now has the capacity to obtain limited serologic (antibody) testing in addition to testing for the presence of the virus itself. It is important to stress that although there are manufacturers that have notified the FDA that their serology (antibody) tests have been validated, and the FDA has approved the distribution of the tests, the data demonstrating the accuracy and reliability of the tests has not been reviewed by the FDA. In addition, while detection of antibodies is useful, it does not definitively determine the timing of infection, whether or not the infection is still active and whether or not the individual tested remains contagious. The standardization and interpretation of serologic test results are currently being worked out by the scientific community. We are following these developments closely.  At this time, we can offer serologic testing on a case by case basis.
  • Point of Care Testing: we anticipate functional Point of Care testing on the island within the next week. We are working closely with the Department of Health to train on rapid testing so that we can quickly determine if someone is infected and recommend the best course of care.
  • We encourage anyone with concerns to reach out to the Medical Center by phone to discuss their signs and symptoms or possible need for testing.
  • The Medical Center continues to provide testing for COVID-19 for symptomatic individuals or those with an exposure risk.
  • If you are ill or think you may need testing, please call the Medical Center and we will guide you on next steps.
  • Keep in mind that COVID-19 symptoms are varied. Most people are aware that it may cause fever, flu-like symptoms, muscle aches, loss of smell, cough and chest tightness, however it may also cause sore throat, GI symptoms like nausea or diarrhea or severe fatigue. 
  • Individuals who have traveled off island for any amount of time for any reason are at higher risk.
  • Individuals who have been in direct close contact with a COVID-19 patient are at higher risk

It is important to recognize that the majority of individuals may be asymptomatic for COVID-19, but still able to transmit the virus (Finelli et al., 2020)[1]

It is equally important for all of us to monitor our own health and support the health of our community. According to the World Health Organization, “stigma can lead people to hide symptoms of illness to avoid discrimination. They may not seek heath care when they need it and may further isolate themselves, which comes with its own health risks.”

 What is stigma?

Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart from others. When a person is labelled by their illness they are no longer seen as an individual but as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes and beliefs toward this group create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination.

Stigma = stereotyping >prejudice >discrimination.

Stigma brings experiences and feelings of:

  • shame
  • blame
  • hopelessness
  • distress
  • secrecy
  • loneliness, isolation and social exclusion
  • stereotyping and derogatory labels
  • misrepresentation in the media
  • being treated differently than the rest of society
  • discrimination in housing, employment or services

Stigma worsens a person’s illness and can lead to a reluctance to seek and/or accept necessary help.

Families are also affected by stigma, leading to a lack of disclosure and support.  And, importantly, when the fear of stigma or alienation prevents an individual from seeking help or testing, it can have dangerous consequences for the individual and for the community as undiagnosed and untreated disease spreads.

Please let us work together to assure that no one on Block Island avoids testing for fear of the reaction of others if they are found to have contracted this virus.

If you become ill with fever or flu-like symptoms, do not hesitate to reach out to the Medical Center by phone; CALL FIRST before coming to the Medical Center so we can ensure the safety of all Block Islanders. Together we will work out next steps and ensure you receive the care you need.  (401) 466-2974 ext. 3

The RI Department of Health has information regarding services and helplines to help during this crisis.

Mental and Behavioral Health Resources 24/7 Crisis Lines

  • BH Link • Tel: 401-414-5465 • Location: People can also present in-person to 975 Waterman Ave, East Providence, RI 02914
  • Kids’ Link RI (specifically for children and adolescents) • Tel: 1-855-543-5465
  • Disaster Distress Helpline • Tel: 1-800-985-5990
  • Community Care Alliance • Tel: 401-235-7120
  • Gateway Healthcare • Tel: 401-723-1915 or 401-553-1031
  • Newport County Mental Health Center • Tel: 401-846-1213
  • The Providence Center • Tel: 401-274-7111
  • Thrive Behavioral Health • Tel: 401-738-4300
  • Safe Call Now (for first responders and their families) • Tel: 1-206-459-3020 24/7

Text Lines

  • Text TalkWithUs to 66746
  • Text CONNECT to 741741
  • Text BLUE to 741741 (for law enforcement only) 24/7

Suicide Prevention Lines

  • National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255

On April 20th, the amended Town of New Shoreham Emergency Ordinance went into effect, allowing for limited work activities with precautions. We urge caution for all Block Islanders, workers and visitors rigorous adherence to the guidelines below and to the directives of the updated Town Ordinance.  The updated Town Ordinance was crafted with input from the Medical Center and with focus on the health, safety and welfare of our community.

We are aware that the “Shelter in Place” ordinance may increase distress experienced by individuals caused by social isolation from friends and family members.  For this reason, we ask every Block Islander reach out by telephone every day to at least two individuals by telephone “just to check in.” We especially encourage everyone to think of our elderly or those who may live alone and reach out to them, ensure they are OK and that they have what they need. 


  • Follow the Shelter in Place
  • Maintain social distancing at all times.
  • Wear a mask or scarf when in public.
  • Self-quarantine for 14 days when returning from ANY trip off island.  
  • Reach out to the Medical Center by telephone if you feel ill or if you have a known COVID-19 exposure.
  • Follow healthy living guidelines to stay strong:
    • Get regular exercise, such as walking, every day!
    • Ensure you are getting good nutrition with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains–decrease processed foods and sugar
    • Get 8 hours of sleep every night
    • Avoid or eliminate tobacco use and excessive alcohol intake
    • Create a healthy daily routine, with a schedule to avoid boredom
    • Connect with others by telephone or video chat regularly
    • Reach out to the Medical Center to address any health concerns or health maintenance issues that need attention

 Stay home and stay safe. By protecting your own health, you are protecting everyone’s health.

Medical Center Current Operations

Status of transition to the new Medical Team:

Dr. Tom Warcup, our new Medical Director, assumed his post on May 9th.  Dr. Warcup and the team are in communication with RIDOH regarding State developments and testing.  BIHS has been developing a response to COVID-19, including protocol development for the Medical Center, and coordination with the Town Council and Emergency Task Force. 

Laurie Anderson, our new nurse practitioner is seeing patients along with Dr. Warcup.  We are confident in and enthusiastic about our highly experienced and qualified new team.   

The Medical Center recognizes the need for continued primary and urgent care of our patients and that unique health concerns arise in a time of uncertainty or crisis. We are here and continue to respond to our community’s needs.

The Medical Center is scheduling telephone visits and face-to-face visits as needed. Please call (401) 466-2974 ext. 3, Monday through Friday between 9 AM and 3 PM to schedule an appointment. 

  • The Medical Center continues to respond to all acute care and urgent issues.
  • We are conducting care visits by telephone or video-call when necessary, but have resumed regular face to face appointments. Calls or appointments can be scheduled by calling (401) 466-2974 ext. 3, Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM.
  • BIHS behavioral health services will continue by telephone or video conferencing. Please call the Medical Center if you need assistance contacting a provider.
  • PT telehealth visits are available; regular PT visits will resume next week with precautions; please call Alison Warfel to make an appointment. (401) 466-2974 ext. 6
  • All BIHS Wellness and Risk Reduction Program visits are resuming on a case by case basis with precautions.
  • Please call the Medical Center for any questions or if you would like to schedule an in person or telehealth for medical or behavioral health.
  • During this anxiety provoking time, if you or a loved one is having difficulty coping, please reach out to the medical center for assistance. We are here to help, and our behavioral health team is here to provide telehealth services as needed.

Online resources to support your health, check them out!

[1] Angulo FJ, Finelli L, Swerdlow DL. Reopening Society and the Need for Real-Time Assessment of COVID-19 at the Community Level. JAMA. Published online May 15, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.7872