Eyeball Jello Mold: by Meg Powers, June 2021

A Stitch in Time: Get lost in space at TimeZone

Pieter Martens is exactly the kind of tour guide you might expect for TimeZone, moving with the speed of a Belgian version of Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil, constantly narrating the themes for the various parts of this mini theme park, without ever giving away the tricks to the various games within.

“And this room is set in the ancient Mayan Empire,” he says, ushering our little group of time traveling adventurers into our third or fourth room in as many minutes. “Of course, it’s very good for your leg muscles, because you have to bend down a lot.” Of course. Wait, what? Ancient Mayan squats? There’s no further explanation, but we quickly figure out this is a sort of basketball variant. There are giant stone hoop targets, iron bars and balls you bend down to carefully recover through those bars. There’s also a countdown clock, and enough adrenaline that none of felt the workout until much later.

Imagine if everything at a place like Dave and Buster’s was tied together with one narrative and one scoring system. Then add in some more brainteasers, balancing acts, climbing and artistic ambiance and you’ve got a sense of what TimeZone feels like.

TimeZone launched this month within Lincoln’s R1 Entertainment Center, which also hosts an arcade, axe throwing and go kart racing (not at the same time). TimeZone is a new idea, conceived in Martens’ feverish imagination and executed by local artists, many from The Reliquarium, an artist collective best known for creating high-end stage designs for international music festivals. The Reliquarium happens to be right up the road from TimeZone.

Our small band was traveling through space. There’s a video that explains all this (and there are humans around if you need them, although not everyone gets their own whirling dervish of a guide / inventor). So we’re traveling through space, right, and our ship hits a time anomaly — one that probably escaped from some classic Trek episode. That space-iceberg collision throws different rooms in the ship into different eras and parts of the universe, leaving us to solve various challenges presented by these different times. There are also Easter eggs along the way that add up to a solution that will rescue our starship from permanent time dysphoria and save us from having to interact with our younger, dumber selves.

One room involved speed math, which prompted my teammates to immediately pull out their cell phones and launch calculator apps. “That’s OK, yes. It’s not against the rules,” our guide told us, although he clearly preferred the challenge of doing his own math in his head.

Another room let us shoot cannons (armed with tennis balls) at pirates. One involved assessing dinosaurs based on color, size and deadliness, while a third involved code breaking. Yet another required us to master the art of the group selfie. Each room has a display outside to let you know if another team is in there, and to inform players of the speed, strength, balance and intelligence needed to escape from that particular time vortex.

“I appreciated the diversity of the interactive experience,” said local educator and artist Jade Sisti, part of our improvised team. “Each room presented different types of challenges. Choosing your group well seems like a crucial element — this takes the best aspects of escape rooms and lets each person play to their strengths. Nobody’s at a permanent disadvantage — everyone can work together, which made it really unique. It’s well rounded, so everybody’s useful in different ways at different times, whether it’s physical or mental or draws on experience. Like, I would do really well on the balance challenges next time, as long as I remember not to wear heels. A lot of my friends would not.”

“It seems pretty ideal for a quick date, too,” added fellow first-time player Genevieve Flowers, who quickly became known for doing math in her head and staying on balance beams across seas of molten lava. ”Like speed dating, but better because you can get a sneak peak into every aspect of a potential date — teamwork, strength, agility, brains…”

Motif had early previews of the facility when it was in progress over COVID summer. It’s fascinating to see some of the complicated mechanics come to life — and to see how much has changed and evolved as the development team worked on bringing the trapped space vessel to life. That includes materials that lend themselves to easy sanitization, and simplifications to game play. 

One of the rooms that was among the last to come together was originally going to be a climbing challenge set inside the carcass of a giant space dragon. Now it’s a different kind of climbing game aimed at saving a struggling colony of bees. I ask Martens what happened to the desiccated dragon concept. “It didn’t work,” he says simply. Onward and upward! Saving the bees seems like it does work, although none of us can make it on the first try. That would be too easy.

The entire game, or sport, or activity — it’s a bit hard to define this thing — is in some ways a giant beta test for Martens and his game designers. They’re carefully tracking what visitors of all ages like and don’t like, constantly tweaking the difficulty of the challenges. “Some people have told us this opening is too small,” he says, angling his 6-foot-plus frame through an Arabian-style window in one room. “Maybe, but only one person from a team needs to go in there, so it works for now.” You can almost see him sizing up where the chainsaw might be applied to that problem in the near future.

“I would love to build up to having team competitions and a league play element,” says Martens, absentmindedly shuffling a series of RFID necklaces, the keys to the kingdom. Er, starship. “And then soon, when we have made enough mistakes to know what works, I hope we can roll out TimeZones all over the country, each customized to its city and the interests of the people there. Here, we have a couple of Lovecraft-themed rooms that will probably only ever be in Rhode Island. We have 25 rooms here. But we have games for at least 50 rooms, someday. And we are always having new ideas.”

Names may have been changed to protect the secret identities of certain time travelers. Thank you, future selves. You can schedule your own trip through time at r1kart.com/motif. TimeZone, an Axe Bar and R1 Indoor Karting are located at 1000 Higginson Ave, Lincoln RI.

Snail’s Pace: Black Lives Matter activists say progress is achingly slow

It’s half past six on a cool May night and everyone in the small crowd gathered in front of the State House has bowed their head in silence. They’re marking one year since the murder of George Floyd and taking stock of what has happened since.

More than 365 days later, Derek Chauvin — who knelt on Geoge Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and killed him, on video no less — was convicted of two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter. The activists in front of the State House, however, including progressive legislators like Representative David Morales and Senator Tiara Mack, aren’t satisfied with the little progress on the issues they’ve spent years advocating for in Rhode Island. As the Warren Zevon song goes, “That shit that used to work, it won’t work now.”

“Justice is Black people not dying at the hands of police,” said Harrison Tuttle, executive director of the Black Lives Matter RI PAC, which organized the event at the State House. The PAC was created during last summer’s explosive protests and is staffed by young, POC activists from the metro area. Its mission is to tirelessly support and elect young, POC and progressive candidates for local office. Tuttle continued, “Justice looks like ending state-sanctioned violence, ending systemic problems that cause inequalities in housing and education and most importantly, policing. And we must look to reinvest in those areas that need it the most, instead of pouring more funds into policing and less funds into necessary services.”

“Due to the [police] academy’s inability to produce law enforcement that can protect and serve all people despite color, race and ethnicity,” said Joyce Wise, a former BLM RI executive director, “we can no longer trust the academy to produce law enforcement officers that will protect and serve all of us.” Activists are calling for the repeal of the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights (LEOBoR). LEOBoR has been controversial with community organizers for years in Rhode Island, and efforts to repeal or reform the additional rights it grants law enforcement has become a perennial effort in the state legislature.

LEOBoR provides an extra layer of legal protections and rights to the state’s law enforcement officers. If, for example, a police chief wants to discipline an officer for more than two days, it automatically prompts a three-member panel. The officer being disciplined has the right to choose one active duty or retired officer to serve on the three-member panel. Nothing sounds more Rhode Island than an alignment of interest, right?

A relic of the 20th century, LEOBoR was passed into law in 1976; Rhode Island is one of 15 states that still have laws like this on the books. It’s become a major roadblock to police accountability in the state, with the peer panels having virtually no incentive to uphold any disciplinary action. Police chiefs and other leaders also are prohibited from speaking about any disciplinary action officers may or may not receive. As followers of any juicy local political scandal are aware, this is something not granted to any other public servants in the state.

Legislation has been introduced for a full repeal of LEOBoR. The Rhode Island Association of Police Chiefs, while open to reforming it, are not considering a full repeal. Newly minted Governor Dan McKee, in an April press conference, opined that police officers need to be held accountable, saying, “I do believe it needs reform to make sure that there is accountability.” Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos agreed with calls for reforming the law, a marked difference from her earlier calls for a full repeal.

But it’s more than just a single set of bad laws, activists say. Racism is the inherent vice in the Rhode Island system. “This past year and more has been marked by more Black deaths at the hand of state violence, systemic violence, of Black, brown and low-income communities,” said Senator Mack. 

It’s a common, frustrated refrain from activists, that violence comes from more than just law enforcement. Rhode Island has only just now passed a pathway to a $15 minimum wage (to be phased in gradually over five years), meaning the people in greatest need of a wage hike will have to wait even longer. The pandemic disproportionally impacted the state’s working poor and, contrary to what local, vocal boosters say, the rising tide of recovery has not lifted all boats. 

While affordable housing bonds were passed earlier this year, the state government has no dedicated funding stream for building affordable housing. Rent and house prices have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and many struggling working families were housing-cost-burdened before. Cannabis legalization is on the way, but expungement for cannabis-related criminal offenses during its prohibition is not.

“Indifference is not gonna pave a path to justice,” said Dr. Luis Daniel Munoz to the crowd on that May evening. “The fact is, indifference is pretty pervasive in all of the institutions, whether it’s policing or the building right behind us.” 

Munoz is a gubernatorial candidate for the 2022 election, and progressives, fresh off a number of victories in the last election, are looking ahead. Electioneering, once the realm of pencilneck policy wonks and the kind of nerds who really like applying statistics to sports, is a keystone of BLM RI PAC and antiracist organizers. Tuttle points out that eight seats on Providence City Council are up for election next year.

Not much happened in the last year, but who knows what’s possible in the next?

Summer Guide 2021 Cover: Zoe Anderson

This is the third cover that local illustrator Zoe Anderson created for Motif, and we can’t wait for her vision of someone opening the door onto a vibrant summer after a long time in isolation to become a reality. We asked Zoe to put herself into the scene. Where would she go first? “I would want to see if there were any nature trails in the background past the pond,” she said. “I’m excited to get out into the forest now that the weather is warmer.”

To see more of Zoe’s art, follow her @zoescatmind.

Where Have All the Carnies Gone?: The Ocean State might be left out of an American tradition

Last year was a bust for that key New England tradition, the summer carnival. Most were canceled outright. Others turned to the “drive-in” format to recoup fiscal losses. Carnival and fair operations represent a billion-dollar industry nationwide, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local revenue and employing hundreds of thousands of people. The economic knock-on effects provided to local vendors, hotels, restaurants and the like are incalculable.

This year the industry is hoping for a renaissance. Sharon Popovich of Reithoffer Shows, a Florida-based travelling carnival company in operation for over a century, said the pandemic shot a hole through many of the smaller traveling carnivals, leaving a demand for mobile attractions for the summer county fair circuit. The culprit is not the virus, but the aftershocks the pandemic left on national and local economies. 

“Some of the smaller companies didn’t make it,” she said. “It’s unfortunate because many people missed their fair last year. They have pent-up desire to attend this year. We are getting the people, but we just don’t have the labor force to give them the big event that they really want.”

The northeastern carnival circuit follows the same schedule as other summer attractions, relying on steady business from Memorial Day to Labor Day to keep afloat. Popovich said the upcoming season could be bleak for the region. Reithoffer usually travels as far north as Brockton for their annual fair — hitting over 40 events around the country in a normal year — however that event has been cancelled. 

The website carnivalwarehouse.com, an online clearinghouse for all things carnival, shows only one event scheduled in Rhode Island, the Washington County Fair, scheduled for August.

Washington County Fair committee co-chair Roxanne Nelson said the group is excited to bring back the annual tradition. Last year’s event was held virtually, which curtailed the charitable fundraising that participating organizations rely upon. The fair will be welcoming Johnston-based Rockwell Amusements, Rhode Island’s only carnival company. 

“Many of the food booths do their annual fundraising at the fair, which definitely caused a hardship [in 2020] for their organization,” she said. “Whenever you cancel an in-person event there is always a fear that when you are able to reopen, the patrons won’t remember your event or won’t make plans to attend.”

As states continue to relax COVID restrictions, there is no reason 2021 shouldn’t be a banner year, said Chieko. Early reports suggest a blockbuster run.

“Every carnival is doing phenomenal business. There is a lot of pent-up demand,” he said. “COVID was obviously devastating for our industry. For the most part nobody operated last year. But the carnival folks are very resilient.”

Because most are privately held companies, Chieko said hard data on the total impact from the economic shutdown is tough to establish. He estimates about 90% of 2020 sales were lost.

Popovich acknowledges the carnival life is not for the faint of heart. Employees are on the road for extended stretches of time. The hours are long, and the wages are comparable to the average service industry job that one could work from the comfort of their hometown. The company does provide housing for their employees in the form of small trailers. 

 Reithoffer often takes on local day labor to supplement staffing. 

“Right now we’ll hire anybody,” said Popovich. “It’s been tough. It’s taking us longer to get [to locations] and set up than it used to.”

Like musicians on the road, traveling carnivals rely on a dedicated circuit to move along, generating revenue in one place that in turn allows them to move on to the next. If too many festivals are cancelled, the financial calculus of putting up the capital to travel to a particular region stops making sense.

“We’re coming out of Florida. Is it feasible for us to go north when we only have one event? That’s not going to pay for our expenses,” said Popovich. “So now we are having to cancel events. You have to have the routes. We already lost one year. And this year is not looking good.”

Chieko said the carnivals shall endure. They are part of the country’s DNA.

“It’s traditional Americana,” he said. “What’s more fun than going outside to a carnival with three generations of your family to enjoy the day?”

Perhaps Rhode Island officials should begin mailing invitations to these moveable feasts.

Yes, We Can!

Rhode Island’s first brewpub is welcoming change with new ownership and new beer. For the first time in 28 years, Union Station Brewery is canning and distributing two of their in-house-made beers. With a little help from Buttonwoods Craft Brewery, double IPA The King is Dead and New England IPA Cranston Thug Life are canned, and the two hazy commodities will hit the streets in weeks to come through local distributor Craft Collective. Until then, you can grab a 4-pack right at the brewery. 

Fan favorite Cranston Thug Life is a nod to part owner Mike Delehanty’s son, Jack, who earned the nickname at age 11 after drinking his cup of frozen lemonade from a paper bag.

Delehanty has remained optimistic throughout the COVID crisis, despite assuming ownership just months before the pandemic hit. He met challenge after challenge while creating delicious beer on what he describes as “the oldest equipment in the state.”

“While the pandemic certainly slowed down getting to where I wanted to, I’ve been really happy with the beer our brewer Dave Kenney has made. Each beer seems to be better than the last,” says Delehanty.

PVD Equality Festival

Heather Rose in Clover

On June 19, Askew in PVD is hosting a block-party style day of celebration for the LGBTQQIAAP community. There will be food trucks, vendors and face paint by the incomparable Yosefa. Randy Andy & Co will stage a drag performance, Heather Rose in Clover will perform live and DJ Evil Liz will spin the beats between performances that are still to be announced.

We talked to Heather Rose who said, “Lisa, Greg and I are really excited, fully vaccinated and very ready to hit the Askew stage for an in-person audience! Playing an outdoor, block-party style fest is the ultimate summer experience for any musician. And being part of something that embraces positivity, diversity, and togetherness? Sign me up.”

Randy Andy

We also spoke with Randy Andy, the producer of Askew’s drag king entertainment, who told us, “I’m feeling excited and completely overwhelmed. It’s not just Pride, it’s the first major production I’m involved in as we (hopefully) ease out of this pandemic. So it’s all about shaking off the dust and getting my glittery groove back. I’m thrilled Askew and other downtown bars and clubs survived the pandemic. I’m glad we are going to have a taste of Pride and I’m glad it’s going to support our local clubs and performers.”

PVD Equality Festival takes place June 19 at 6pm, 150 Chestnut St, PVD. For more info, fb.com/events/314431186973408

Trans Vote RI Website Launched

A photo ID is required to vote in Rhode Island, but trans and non-binary people showing an ID that does not reflect their name, gender or appearance could run into some obstacles at the polls. With that in mind, Thundermist Health Center, Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and GLADLaw launched a website designed to help trans and non-binary people navigate the system. It includes step-by-step information on changing the name or gender marker on identity documents, and also explains how trans and non-binary people can get a voter ID that reflects their identity if their state ID does not. To view the guide, go to transvoteri.com.

An Independent Voice: Providence activist, educator running grassroots campaign for Ward 15

The city of Providence is set to see another special election this summer. With Dan McKee’s elevation to governor, the lieutenant governor position became vacant. McKee nominated then-Providence City Council President Sabina Matos as his number two, creating a rare opening in the 15-member body that oversees the capital city. The winner will finish out the
rest of Matos’ term, which ends January 2023.

Matos represented Ward 15, a triangle of the city’s southwest side, comprising the Olneyville and Valley neighborhoods and a portion of Silver Lake. The party primary date is June 8, and the general election date is July 6. With no Republicans or Independents on the ballot (Republicans are unofficially classified as an endangered species in Providence), the primary is, in essence, the special election.

Five candidates have announced that they’re running for the Ward 15 council race. One newcomer to the campaign trail is Mount Pleasant High School teacher and local artist Casandra Inez, who has launched a door-to-door grassroots campaign that seeks to prioritize face-to-face politicking.

I caught up with Inez at a recent campaign event hosted by the Olneyville Neighborhood Association, in the second-floor space within the Atlantic Mills complex. Arriving with her partner, local artist Spocka Summa, with their napping child in tow, Inez listened to a group of ward residents speak of the issues facing the neighborhood: housing, environmental and criminal justice reform, pollution and education.

Inez advocates for greater city investment toward tackling these problems, such as an expansion of affordable housing programs and regulatory pushback against private equity pumping the rental market skyward. Participants also mused over the fate of the Atlantic Mills building. A former mill complex, emblematic of the city’s industrial past, it’s been rumored to be for sale for years and is now listed online for $4.1 million. Some participants felt that the only improvements being made in the city benefit the political and economic elite.

Inez said she has witnessed first-hand the slow burn of economic inequality, the deteriorating public school system and the spread of real estate speculation driving gentrification. These social factors were exacerbated by the pandemic, something she has also experienced. Her
Manton Avenue arts studio, the Public Shop and Gallery, shuttered its brick and-mortar space during the height of the pandemic, though it is still active in the creative community.

A bona fide progressive, Inez opposes charter school expansion and placing police officers (known more commonly as Student Resource Officers or SROs) in public schools. The campaign boasts 50 volunteer canvassers. Inez said her strategy is to keep their ears to the street and listen to residents in person rather than relying on flooding yards with campaign posters and engaging their message through traditional media filters.

When speaking with residents, Inez said voters continue to be particularly outspoken about the environmental impacts of new and redevelopment infrastructure, such as the 6-10 connector highway project that received large-scale pushback last year for allegations of improper dumping of hazardous material.

“[Ward 15 varies] street to street, never mind the neighborhoods. I’m getting great feedback on the things that weren’t as urgent to me at first but are to other people,” she said, describing the ward. “But [having neighborhoods] that are clean and healthy are two of the top issues. It’s the
things immediately next to them that they care about.”

Inez’ unique background as an educator influences her campaign. She sees the on-the-ground inadequacies in the city’s public schools every day, an attribute she feels is necessary for anyone seeking to help guide City Hall policy. Her students are freshmen, a vital year for city pupils that can set their path for a lifetime. But the system is broken.

“About 70% of my students don’t show up [for class],” she said. “And there is nothing being done about that. They have completely slipped through the cracks. These students have decided they are done with the system, and I think COVID intensified that. They feel very isolated.”

Inez doesn’t plan to take a break from teaching if elected. “That’s my career,” she said. “It’s my bread and butter. I see the council position as being that community advocate who is supposed to be representing your neighborhood at the table.”

A few of her opponents have established Smith Hill connections. Doris De Los Santos was a former aide and interim chief of staff to Matos. Oscar Vargas is a state senate legislative aide.

But the people are hungry for a representative they can relate to. “[They] want [a councilor] who is living in a similar situation to them,” she said. “A person who understands their problems.”

Inez was diplomatic when asked how she felt Ward 15 has been represented in the past. “Things were slowly getting better,” she said. “Just not as quickly as they could have. I think we’re moving in the right direction, but have yet to achieve what is possible.”

Local politics can be notoriously cutthroat, but Inez said she sees an opening created by rising disillusionment among many Ward 15 voters regarding politics as usual. Her campaign may be shaking the political establishment, as evidenced by a recent phone call she received.

“I had a state senator call me to say that I wasn’t going to win because nobody knows my name,” said Inez.

But as the primary approaches, many disagree with that sentiment. Inez recently received the endorsement of both the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 328 as well as Reclaim RI, a progressive policy organization.

“It’s about mobilizing the community,” said Inez. “That’s more of the direction we need to go in.”

RI Ends Most COVID-19 Restrictions a Week Early

Almost all COVID-19 public health restrictions in RI will end tomorrow, May 21, for people who are fully vaccinated, Gov. Daniel McKee announced at his weekly press conference today. This is a week earlier than had been previously announced for the Memorial Day long weekend, May 29-31.

RI Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott explained that “Fully vaccinated means that you have received all of the doses of the vaccine that’s required for you to be protected, and at least two weeks have followed since your last dose. That ensures the full protection that’s in place.”

RI COVID-19 restrictions mostly end May 21, 2021.

For individuals who are fully vaccinated and establishments that restrict access to those fully vaccinated, the governor said that, effective tomorrow, there would be no requirements for physical distancing and no restrictions on capacity for indoor dining, bar areas (including standing service with no barriers or dividers required), catered events (including indoor and outdoor bar service), dance floors, houses of worship, retail, adult recreation (including gyms and sports), personal services, venues of assembly, funeral homes, offices, social gatherings, pools and casinos.

For individuals who are not fully vaccinated and establishments that allow access to those not fully vaccinated, previous guidelines, including mask wearing and physical distancing, will continue to apply.

In response to a question, RI Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said, “We’re not requiring vaccine passports, no specific format for proof of vaccinations… There are multiple ways that someone can show that they are vaccinated including the original vaccine card, including a digital image of the card, including one of these records that you get off of the website. An establishment could decide that they’re just asking individuals for the vaccine status. So these are options up to the local establishment, and we’re not requiring a passport the way other states may be, and establishments might decide they want a specific format.” However, Pryor said, if people are simply being asked by establishments whether they are vaccinated, “if they were choosing that method, I’d recommend that they call the Health Department or Commerce and talk through their strategy.”

Businesses and other establishments, although no longer required to enforce mask wearing and physical distancing if they restrict access to those fully vaccinated, may choose to continue to do so. McKee said, “Fully reopening gives businesses and organizations, individually, the option to loosen their restrictions right away. Some may take a bit more time, and, as I said on Tuesday, let’s have courtesy and understand that just as it was getting used to wearing the masks over the last year, and certainly what people were more comfortable sooner than others, it’s going to be the same thing in reverse. It doesn’t matter whether we did it today, three weeks from now, four weeks from now, there’s going to be, it’s going to be a transition. Let’s respect people during that transition. But also it’s another message to people who are not vaccinated. We want you to wear a mask inside. And we want you to seek out the ability to get vaccinated. That, again, is what is allowing us to reopen our economy and it also will allow us to reopen our schools.”

Through the end of the school year, mask wearing and similar restrictions will continue for youth sports, both indoor and outdoor, consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to protect children who cannot yet be vaccinated. This policy will be re-evaluated after June 30.

RI COVID-19 mask wearing requirements as of May 21, 2021.

Restrictions will continue in certain settings: in businesses that choose to require them, in schools and child care settings, in healthcare settings (including hospitals, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes), on public transport (including buses, trains, and airplanes), in transport hubs (bus stations, train stations, airports), in prisons and correctional facilities, in places that serve people experiencing homelessness, and outside RI where required by local rules. The general principle appeared to be to protect vulnerable people who either cannot or may not be vaccinated.

Alexander-Scott said that reopening the economy was safe given the conditions of the community. “A key for us in Rhode Island is to first take into account what’s happening with our data. Our percent positivity has remained below 2% for 10 days – and remember, the lower the better. Our percent positivity that we’re reporting today, as of yesterday, is 0.7%. When is the last time that you recall Rhode Island as a state having a percent positivity less than 1.0%? That is tremendous.” Recent studies showed the vaccines to be extremely effective in the real world, she said. “A way that I have thought about it is the vaccines are proving to be so effective, that even if you are in a crowded area indoors amongst people who are unvaccinated or positive once you are fully vaccinated, you can rest assured that you have the protection needed to keep you and your loved ones safe. That’s a game changer.” RI is seeing vaccine effectiveness comparable to the rest of the country, she said. “What we’ve seen, even here in Rhode Island, is that the breakthrough cases – people who have been fully vaccinated and ended up getting infected – is so extremely low, it is less than 1%; it’s actually 0.15%. So that means 99.9% of the time almost the vaccine works tremendously effectively; that far surpasses what we saw with the clinical trials.”

Alexander-Scott said the vaccines are proving effective against evolving mutated variants of the virus, warning that people who were previously infected and recovered likely have little or no natural immunity to the newer variants, so it is important for them to be vaccinated. “You cannot rely on natural immunity to be protected. If you’ve been infected in the past, you likely did not have a variant form. You had one of the older forms of coronavirus. Very quickly over the last few weeks, the predominant form [circulating in the wild] are our variants. So do not just rely on natural immunity or herd immunity to be protected. You as an individual and your loved ones have to be fully vaccinated in order to have the protection.”

RI COVID-19 czar Tom McCarthy said that 74,000 doses were administered last week. Vaccination in RI is “accessible, easy and fast,” taking about 25 minutes. “People may want to carry their documentation for proof of vaccination on them. The best proof that you have is the vaccination card that you receive. When you receive that final dose. Make a copy of it, take a picture of it on your phone, keep it in a safe place, get it laminated. If you’ve misplaced your card, and you want proof of your vaccination status, right now you can go to portal.ri.gov/VaccineRecord/s/ and on that site, you can look up your record and you can print it. If you run into any issues, you can always call 401-222-8022. We’re putting the finishing touches on a system that will allow people to call in and we can then mail you a paper copy of your vaccine records,” McCarthy said.

Although Matt Weldon, director of the Department of Labor and Training, was present on the stage, he said nothing and was not asked any questions during the press conference. Responding to a question about the difficulty businesses have reported hiring workers, McKee said, “We’ve mentioned here that it’s time for people to get back to work. We’ve set a date of May 23 where they’re going to have to show, people who are on unemployment, they’re going to need to show that they are looking for work. And I’ll sign a bill tomorrow, I think that Matt Weldon could kind of go into detail on that if you’d like it now or later, but we are working on, we’re the only state in the country right now, that has passed legislation that is going to provide a path for the people can continue to collect the [federal unemployment] $300 bonus and go back to work.”

Veterans Memorial Auditorium staff break down the set used for the past year at the press conferences by the RI governor after the final such event, May 20, 2021.
(Photo: Michael Bilow)

This was the final press conference held at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, chosen to allow physical distancing between reporters present. Starting May 11, 2020, and now ending May 20, 2021, the “Vets” was one of the few facilities that could have accommodated the unusual need, and the governor thanked the staff of the facility for welcoming them. Future press conferences will be at the State House, which the governor said he expected to begin gradually reopening to the public.