A Great Pace: Vaccinations discussed at the weekly COVID-19 press conference

Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee was back on stage today, headlining the COVID-19 press conference. McKee stated he is proud of the progress the Ocean State has made in its vaccinations and its buildup of capacity to put thousands of shots in arms. Johnson & Johnson’s single dose vaccine is expected to start arriving within a few weeks, pending federal and state approval. “That’s why it’s increasing — both state sites and regional sites will build up capacity and supply to quickly get shots in arms,” said McKee. He also announced the state is receiving a $64 million grant from FEMA to aid with costs related to vaccine distribution.

Rhode Island could receive an initial shipment of 9,000 of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a significant number that will aid the state’s fight against the coronavirus. McKee had several other announcements, including prioritizing teachers and school personnel in his vaccination as governor. The move is a switch from the age-based vaccination strategy.

Dr. Alexander-Scott today announced two new state-run vaccination sites will be opening in a matter of weeks. The first site will be where the Benny’s used to be in Middletown — “In true Rhode Island style,” quipped Dr. Alexander-Scott — the second will be on the corner of Mendon Road and Diamond Hill Road where a Sears used to be. According to data obtained from RI National Guard Gen. Callahan, 300 people are getting vaccinated at Rhode Island vax sites per hour, for a total of 6,600 doses per day going into arms across the state. “A great pace,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott. The DOH director said not to worry about which vaccine to get, but focus on getting vaccinated as quickly as possible. DOH also reports no severe allergic reactions or deaths in Rhode Island related to the COVID-19 vaccine. 

DEM director Janet Coit was also on stage today, announcing that high-risk, higher contact sports, such as football and lacrosse, could begin playing competitively again for the spring season. Teams from neighboring New England states can also begin to play competitively again in the Ocean State, but the states they come from must have a percent positive rate of lower than 5% and observe all other travel restrictions before coming in. COVID-19 modifications are still in place for school sports. Students must wear masks when playing and sanitize equipment regularly. Coit and McKee speculated that events such as Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals would not have to cancel this year.

COVID-19 trends are still falling in Rhode Island. State health officials reported 387 new cases since yesterday. There are 163 people in the hospital. Dr. Alexander-Scott announced daily new hospitals admissions had fallen 65% compared to where they’ve been. The national average in new hospital admissions is a 45% reduction. Thirty-four people remain in the ICU with 17 on ventilators. DoH also reports 10 new deaths connected to COVID-19. 

In RI, 160,090 people have gotten the first vaccination dose; 65,461 have received the second dose and are considered fully vaccinated. The state has used 225,551 from its stockpile of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.