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Vaccine Rollout Continues: A summary of the weekly COVID-19 briefing

Incoming governor Dan McKee, DoH director Dr. Nicole Alexander Scott, and commerce secretary Stefan Pryor gave the weekly COVID-19 response briefing yesterday at the Vets.

DoH reported 496 new cases of COVID-19 since the previous day. That’s out of the 17,850 tests given for a test positive rate of 2.8%. The three major weekly metrics state officials use to determine restrictions — percent positives, new cases per 100,000, and new hospital admissions — are all trending downward. There are 290 people hospitalized with the virus; 43 people are in the intensive care unit and 23 people are on ventilators. DoH reports 11 additional new deaths.

“We are seeing good trends in our hospitalization data,” said Dr. Alexander Scott. “We have fewer than 300 hospitalizations for the first time since early November.” The state has run more than 110,000 tests over the last week, something the doctor credits for keeping the state positive rate down, in addition to the aggressive action from the pause. Additionally, Dr. Alexander Scott said the state was seeing “virtually no flu in the state right now” crediting good behavior on part of state residents. 

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On the vaccination front, 82,078 Rhode Islanders have received the first dose, about 8% of the state’s total population. There are 31,578 people who have received the second dose, counting as fully-vaccinated. The total number of doses administered in the state is 113,656. Dr. Alexander Scott said the vaccination system model would adhere closely to the one the state uses for testing. While not all testing sites are run by the state, the state does have a specific set they run, and a centralized website system for their testing. 

“We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to get vaccines into the arms of people who need them most,” said McKee. 

The vaccine will soon be available for people age 75 and over at CVS and Walgreens, with additional pharmacies expected to join soon. CVS announced it will start vaccinating at several sites in Providence and Johnston on Sunday. Walgreens locations start on Tuesday, registration starts Sunday morning. Municipalities will also have their own sites in local and regional community clinics, similar to the rollout for citizens 75 and older. State run vaccination sites will open later this month as the state receives additional doses.

DoH repeated its close contact quarantine requirements today. Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of someone with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period. Residents of long-term care facilities who had close contact with someone COVID positive are recommended to quarantine for 14 days. Everyone else should quarantine for at least 10 days at home if they don’t get a test. A person should get a test five days after the last known exposure; tests are less accurate before five days out. If a person gets a negative test result, they may emerge from quarantine, but like others with no symptoms, closely watch symptoms and be cautious for the full 14 days.

Sec. Pryor today announced the commerce department would start loosening some restrictions on businesses given the case and hospitalization trends have improved. Starting today, catered events gathering limits are raised to 30 people indoors and 50 people outdoors with testing. Indoor dining capacity remains at 50% for the place of business, but diners can include two households per table for up to 8 people. Offices can return up to 33% in person, with remote working still preferred. Gyms and sports facilities limits are down to one person per 125 square feet, allowing more members to use the facilities. Indoor recreation places have the same rule. All other restrictions remain the same, but Dr. Alexander Scott stressed that the new highly infectious COVID variants may see the need for further restrictions in the future. 

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