Rhode Island vaccine plan based on age, health, location

January 28, 2021 GMT

Rhode Island plans on expanding its coronavirus vaccine program as soon as next week to residents age 75 and older who have not already received a shot, and then to residents 65 and older by mid-February, state Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said Thursday.

The state’s plan is based on age, underlying health conditions and geography.

“The approach we are taking is 100% grounded in the science and the data on how to best protect people who are most at risk, keeping them out of the hospital and keeping them alive,” she said.

Anyone age 16 to 65 with one of five underlying health conditions — diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, or a compromised immune system — should be able to get a vaccine by mid-March. People with those conditions typically have higher hospitalization and fatality rates from COVID-19, she said.

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The state will also take geography into account, giving residents of hard-hit communities such as Central Falls and Pawtucket better access to the vaccine.

The state’s plan depends on vaccine availability and assumes that the state’s vaccine supply will increase over time, she said.

So far the state has concentrated its vaccination efforts on health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, and first responders. About 64,500 first doses and almost 22,000 second doses have been administered so far, according to state Health Department statistics released Thursday.

Teachers have been clamoring to be moved higher on the vaccination priority list, and Alexander-Scott pointed out that about 58% of the state’s teachers will get vaccinated early under the state’s plan.

“We all realize how important it is to get teachers and all Rhode Islanders vaccinated as quickly as possible,” she said.

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BUSINESS REGULATIONS RELAXED

Starting Sunday, the state is lifting its early closing advisory for restaurants and many others businesses because the latest data shows the state appears to be getting the virus under control, Alexander-Scott said.

Businesses, including entertainment and recreational sites, will no longer have to close at 10 p.m. on weekdays and 10:30 p.m. on weekends, she said.

She hopes relaxing the rules will provide some “flexibility and relief” to struggling businesses.

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ENCOURAGING NUMBERS

The state Department of Health on Thursday reported more than 600 new confirmed cases of the disease, nine more deaths and a 3.3% daily positivity rate.

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The number of people hospitalized has fallen to 335 as of Tuesday, down from 344 the previous day.

The latest seven-day average positivity rate in Rhode Island has now fallen to 3.74%. 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 dropped from 1,003 on Jan. 13 to 733 on Wednesday, according to the project.

“This is very encouraging,” Alexander-Scott said. “This is the direction we need to go.”

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MORE VACCINE

Rhode Island is expecting a more than 20% increase in the number of coronavirus vaccine doses shipped to the state beginning next week, a top state health official said.

The state has been getting about 14,000 doses per week, but will get about 3,000 additional first doses of the Moderna vaccine per week, state Department of Health Medical Director Dr. James McDonald told WPRI-TV.

Several state officials have said that the limited supply is thwarting the state’s vaccination efforts. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as of Tuesday, Rhode Island ranked 27th in the nation for administering the vaccines.

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PRISON VACCINATIONS

About 60% of the employees and one-quarter of inmates at the Rhode Island state prison have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections says.

J.R. Ventura told The Providence Journal on Wednesday that 775 Adult Correctional Institutions staff members had been vaccinated as of Monday, with more than 100 fully vaccinated. Almost 250 staffers refused the vaccine, he said.

Of about 2,000 inmates, more than 475 have been vaccinated, with nearly 100 fully vaccinated, he said. He did not have the number of refusals.

Hundreds of inmates and staff at the prison were diagnosed with COVID-19 late last year, and two inmates and one correctional officer died.