PROVIDENCE, RI (AP) – Opening regional vaccination sites is critical to ensuring anyone in Rhode Island who wants a vaccination for the coronavirus but cannot get to a mass vaccination site has access to one, Governor Daniel McKee said Wednesday.
The Democrat said after touring new regional sites in Westerly and East Providence that 97% of all Rhode Islanders have access to a vaccination site within a 15-minute drive. The East Providence location was opened in partnership with Barrington, Warren, Bristol, Pawtucket and Tiverton.
The state currently has the capacity to manage 160,000 shots a week which it expects will soon grow to 200,000 a week, accelerating the state’s economic reopening plan.
“Every part we use is critical,” he said. “Anywhere we can see more and more people that they are ready to take the picture, we’ll be in a better place when supply starts to meet our demand.”
The goal is to make the July 4th parades and fireworks and summer folk and jazz festivals safe enough in Newport.
“We’re going back to this summer that we all want to enjoy,” he said.
Almost 268,000 people in Rhode Island – or just over 25% of the state’s population – are already fully vaccinated, according to health department statistics released Wednesday.
The department also reported nearly 500 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three other virus-related deaths.
There are now more than 140,000 known cases in the state and 2,635 fatalities.
The number of people in state hospitals with the disease continued to rise to 154 on Monday, up from 149 the previous day.
A Rhode Island legislature has passed laws prohibiting discrimination against people who choose not to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
The bill would prohibit McKee from issuing a vaccination mandate and protecting employees from being fired by their employer, denied a hotel room, and denied a loan from a financial institution based on vaccination status.
Democratic State MP Thomas Noret told The Providence Journal the bill was based not on an anti-vaccination sentiment but on concerns he heard from voters who feared they would be punished if they did not get a coronavirus vaccination would.
The Rhode Island Department of Health expressed concern about the bill in a letter to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, indicating that it would jeopardize existing vaccination regulations for non-coronavirus diseases.
Attorney Mark Dana told WJAR-TV that the US Supreme Court has already ruled that vaccinations are legal for public and private organizations.
The legislature behind the current proposal said it was open to any changes needed. The bill was held on Tuesday for further study.
___ FOOTBALL SEASON BACK
The University of Rhode Island ended its football season early after positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed within the program, the school said on Wednesday.
The Rams were supposed to receive Maine on Saturday and then play at Stony Brook on April 17th. However, since all team activities must be suspended for 10 days, there is not enough time to prepare for either game.
The Football Championship Subdivision team has postponed its fall season to this spring due to the pandemic and closes with a 2-1 record.
FACE COATING DONATION
Providence has received a donation of 25,000 face covers to be distributed to residents and nonprofits to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
The masks were donated by AIS Inc. of Massachusetts.
“Providence is incredibly grateful to receive such a generous donation from AIS, and we encourage residents and local nonprofits to immediately call 311 to request face covers to protect our needy residents,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said in a statement.
Masks are awarded according to the first-come-first-served principle.