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Rhode Island unveils ambitious plan to vaccinate teachers

March 9, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island plans to get all K-12 teachers, school support staffers, and workers at state licensed child care facilities their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of March, Gov. Daniel McKee said Tuesday.

The shots will be administered starting as early as this week at the 30 local vaccination clinics already established around the state, the Democrat said during a news conference at a Pawtucket vaccination site. Staffers at public, private and parochial schools will be eligible. Support staff, including paraprofessionals, clerical staff, custodial staff, bus drivers and others are included in the plan, he said.

“Getting our teachers, school staff, and child care workers vaccinated is one of the best things we can do right now to support students, families, schools, and our economy,” McKee said Tuesday.

The only exception will be in Providence, where a clinic exclusively for school and day care workers will be set up to administer the shots, state Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green said.

To reach the state’s goals, about 18,500 teachers, school staffers and child care workers need to be vaccinated, said Tom McCarthy, director of the state Department of Health’s COVID-19 unit.

People will be vaccinated based on where they work, not where they live, he said.

The effort will be boosted by the addition of more than 14,000 excess doses from the long-term care facility pharmacy partnership that will be added to the state’s general inventory.

The plan was welcomed by two major teacher’s unions, the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and the state branch of the National Education Association.

Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, said although some may be hesitant, “overwhelmingly teachers are thrilled” to be prioritized for vaccinations.

In conjunction with the effort to get teachers vaccinated, the state will expand vaccine eligbility to people who are from 60 to 64 years old and to those 18 and over with underlying health conditions by mid-March.

More than 236,000 vaccine first doses have been administered in the state, and more than 94,000 people have been fully vaccinated, according to the health department Tuesday.

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POSITIVE TRENDS

The state’s weekly percent positive rate, weekly hospitalization rate, and weekly rate of new cases per 100,000 population — key metrics used to measure the spread of the coronavirus — are all down, the state Department of Health reported Tuesday.

The department also reported almost 300 new confirmed cases of the disease and seven additional virus-related fatalities, for more than 129,000 known caseas and 2,556 deaths.

The number of patients in the hospital with the disease was 145 as of Sunday, up slightly from the previous day.

The latest seven-day average positivity rate in Rhode Island is 2.04%, up slightly from two weeks ago. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has fallen from about 320 on Feb. 21 to about 242 on Monday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

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DOCTOR REINSTATED

The Rhode Island Department of Health has reinstated the medical license of a doctor who investigators concluded had deliberately exposed his patients and staff to COVID-19.

Dr. Anthony Farina Jr.’s license was suspended in January after state health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott determined that he presented a danger to the community for his “overall pattern of unprecedented willful misconduct.”

His medical privileges were restored Feb. 23 without explanation, according to department records, The Providence Journal reported Tuesday.

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“Dr. Farina’s license was suspended because of concerns that his continuation in practice would constitute an immediate danger to the public. It was later determined that Dr. Farina’s continuation in practice no longer constituted an immediate danger to the public, so his license was restored,” Joseph Wendelken, spokesperson for the department said in an email to the newspaper.

The Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline’s investigative committee recommended that Farina’s license be suspended after hearing testimony that he exposed staff and patients to COVID-19 after becoming symptomatic in November.

Farina, through his lawyer, denied the allegations and said he would never place patients in harm’s way.

Farina, whose primary specialty is internal medicine, is listed as the director/president of six medical clinics in the state.