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Vaccine mandate hits hurdles in RI; VT push for more testing

October 2, 2021 GMT

Coronavirus developments around New England:

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RHODE ISLAND

More than 90 health care facilities have requested a 30-day extension to meet Gov. Dan McKee’s requirement to get all workers vaccinated against COVID-19, the Rhode Island Department of Health announced Friday.

The list includes some of the largest hospitals in the state, including Rhode Island Hospital and the Miriam Hospital, along with dozens of nursing facilities.

A total of 92 health care facilities have requested extensions to meet the vaccine requirement, which took effect Friday. All have plans to meet the mandate by Oct. 31, according to the health department.

Another 215 facilities reported that they have are in compliance with the requirement, including Kent County Memorial Hospital and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital.

McKee announced in August that all health care workers would be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.

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On Friday, the health department separately ordered a Cranston dentist to stop practicing after he told The Providence Journal he would defy the mandate. The agency said Dr. Stephen Skoly must stop seeing patients until he meets the requirement.

The order gives Skoly 10 days to request a hearing. He told The Journal on Thursday that he would notify patients that he is not vaccinated.

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CONNECTICUT

Bridgeport officials say 70% of the city’s non-school city employees have submitted proof they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus, days after the deadline for all such workers to get vaccinated or submit to weekly tests.

Rowena White, a spokesperson for Mayor Joe Ganim, told Hearst Connecticut Media on Friday that the remaining 30% of workers in Connecticut’s largest city have either not responded to requests for vaccination status or are not vaccinated.

The original deadline was Sept. 27. It’s not clear yet what will happen to employees who are not complying. Ganim’s Sept. 10 order mandating non-school workers to get vaccinated said “failure to adhere ... may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.”

An estimated 2,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal non-school workers are required to either get inoculated or submit to weekly testing.

City officials said they’re hoping to avoid disciplining workers and gain vaccination information about the non-complying workers through a state-managed vaccination database.

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VERMONT

People in Vermont who still need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or who are eligible for booster shots have opportunities across the state.

One location that is available is the COVID-19 Resource Center on the former campus of Southern Vermont College in Bennington. People can register for the shots in Bennington and elsewhere in the state through the Vermont Department of Health’s website.

“While our region is faring better than other parts of the country, testing, vaccination and booster injections are critical to reducing transmission of the virus,” Dr. Trey Dobson, the chief medical officer at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, said in a statement.

“These services offered at the center are essential for a rapid return to a highly functioning society uninhibited by mitigation measures and frequent school and work absence due to disease,” he said.

Registration for booster shots opened Friday for people 65 and older and for those ages 18 to 64 with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk for severe illness with COVID-19.

In order to be eligible, an individual must have received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least 6 months ago prior to getting the booster.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire public health officials hope to set up four new COVID-19 testing sites in the coming weeks.

With demand for tests increasing, Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette said her agency is in contract negotiations with a private vendor to set up sites around the state.

“We would likely be setting those up in some of our more population-dense areas, so some of the cities, or if there is a known gap in testing services in a specific area of the state,” she said.