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Cases Remain Steady: A summary of the governor’s March 25 press conference

Coronavirus cases remain steady as vaccinations climb in Rhode Island. State leaders today announced 7,000 doses were administered daily, with last week hitting an all-time high of 70,000 doses given out. Vaccine supply in Rhode Island is slowly increasing, and officials expect to hit 100,000 a week by the start of June. COVID response executive director Tom McCarthy announced by next week the state will have the vaccination distribution capacity of 160,000 per week.

RIDOH reports 441 new cases of COVID-19 since yesterday, a slight bump compared to the previous week. The percent positive rate is 2.1%, with the state giving 20,000 tests daily. There are 110 Rhode Islanders hospitalized for reasons associated with COVID. Of those, 18 are in the intensive care unit, and 11 are on ventilators. RIDOH also reported today only one COVID-related death since yesterday, “That’s down 86% from our peak,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott.

While COVID numbers remain overall steady, Gov. Dan Mckee reminded Rhode Islanders to keep wearing masks, distancing and washing hands, saying, “We need to continue discipline.” McKee also announced today the state would open two additional new COVID vaccination sites: one in South County at the Schneider Electric Facility, West Kingston, which will open on March 27. Another site will open in Woonsocket on March 28 where Sears used to be. Both locations will be starting with 400 doses; appointment sign-ups begin tomorrow at 5pm.

State health officials continue to keep an eye on new COVID variants in the Ocean State. The B.1.1.7, or UK, variant is the only one successfully identified in the state so far, although Dr. Alexander-Scott said they are aware that other variants may be present. “As far as we know, the vaccines by and large cover the variants,” she said.

New enrollment age groups will be eligible for the vaccine in the coming weeks, as state COVID response leaders move toward making all adults eligible by April 19. Rhode Island will switch to a pre-registration system list due to customer complaints of the current appointment system on vaccinateri.org. The list will be started by pulling from the already existing vaccine interest notification list, with notifications for appointments scheduled to start on April 4. Starting April 7, 50% of state-run vaccine appointments will go to people who have pre-registered. The existing vaccinateri.org will still be usable to make appointments, with it being kept on standby in case the state needs to use it. People on the list can choose how they want to be notified: text, phone call or email. 

The vaccine interest list will be cross-checked with the list of Rhode Islanders to eliminate redundancies. When a person on the pre-registration list is reached out for an appointment, they will have some flexibility for the time, but not the day or location. Rhode Islanders wanting to sign up for the list should go to portal.ri.gov to sign up or call 877-930-1779. “This pre-registration system is a great step in the right direction to ensuring that we get a shot into the arm of everyone who wants one,” said McCarthy.

Gov. McKee’s administration opened the weekly press conferences to additional members of the press last week, starting today, changing the rules originally laid down by former Gov. Gina Raimondo. Gov. McKee said to Motif today that he was open to a “weekly discussion about non-COVID issues even before COVID is over,” when asked if he would continue the regular press conference schedule after the pandemic is over.

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