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“Making Great Progress”: A summary of Governor McKee’s weekly COVID press conference

Governor Dan McKee, DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, COVID Response Executive Director Tom McCarthy, RIDE Commissioner Angelica Infante Green and Commerce director Stefan Pryor gave the weekly COVID-19 press conference today.

COVID cases are slowly on the rise across the state. DOH reports 360 new cases since yesterday with a percent positive test rate of 2.1%. Case numbers continue to hover between 300 and 400 new cases daily. There are 154 people hospitalized for reasons associated with the coronavirus. Dr. Alexander-Scott noted today state health officials are also seeing hospitalizations starting to tick up, and younger people are making up those hospitalizations. It’s uniform statewide, 19 out of the state’s 39 cities and towns saw significant increases in COVID cases over the last five weeks.

Metrics like hospitalizations and deaths are lagging indicators, they don’t go up or down for weeks after case numbers do. There are 28 people in the intensive care unit and 21 are on ventilators. There was also one additional death since yesterday.

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Gov. McKee and other state leaders set bold goals today. By May 16, 70% of all Rhode Island adults age 16 and over will have received their first dose and let two weeks pass. By June 5, this number will be 70% of all Rhode Islanders, including teens and young children. 

McCarthy said he is “confident we can transition from COVID response to recovery” if the state hits the stated goals.

The ambitious goal comes after the rollout that some big summer events, such as Newport Folk and Jazz Fests will be returning in a diminished capacity this summer. The governor promised proms and graduations will be able to happen this year, although proms themselves are expected to have more restrictions. 

“We’re making great progress [in vaccinating Rhode Islanders],” said McKee.

State leaders today announced 20,000 new vaccine appointments would be made available at 5pm starting on the state’s vaccine appointment website. Vaccine eligibility is also being expanded to additional ZIP codes. Starting tomorrow, specific ZIP codes in Woonsocket will open vaccine eligibility, and more across Providence, Cranston, North Providence, East Providence and Johnston ZIP codes starting Monday. On Monday, Rhode Islanders 40 and older will be eligible to start making vaccine appointments. 

The state’s vaccine pre-registration list recently sent out its first notifications of appointment availability. McCarthy also addressed the accidental cancellations yesterday. Earlier this week, cancellation notices went out to people in communities of color. McCarthy stated today those appointments were not cancelled, and they are reaching out to connect those people with appointments.

Events are slowly starting to happen. Events where food will not be served will have three phases from now until May 15. Limits will be 250 indoors, 500 outdoors. Once the state hits the 70% benchmark on May 16, it will double to 500 indoors, 1,000 outdoors. Commencement ceremonies with more than 500 people need to have plans approved by the state.

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