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Providence expands vaccine eligibility in hard-hit sections

March 2, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s largest city has received permission from state health officials to start coronavirus vaccine registrations for residents 50 and older who live in the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods, the mayor announced Tuesday.

Those eligible will get their vaccinations at neighborhood clinics, Mayor Jorge Elorza and City Council President Sabina Matos said in a statement.

“The city is working closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health and community partners to reach residents in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Elorza said. “Providence is making every effort to administer vaccines equitably and efficiently and this next step allows us to more directly reach our most vulnerable residents as quickly as possible.”

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State-run mass vaccination sites and retail pharmacies will continue vaccinating eligible residents 65 or older.

The city’s Clinica Esperanza has been granted authority to vaccinate residents 18 and older provided they also help register and bring an older adult 65 or older to be vaccinated, they said, but only if they live in certain hard-hit zip codes within the city.

Clinica Esperanza primarily serves the city’s immigrant communities, and saw a COVID-19 positivity rate of 23% at their clinic in February.

Appointments are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Vaccines are available to all eligible residents of any immigration status. Eligible residents can sign up on the city’s registration portal.

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LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR VACCINATED

Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee and his wife, Susan, received their dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence on Tuesday.

McKee, who will take over as governor when Gina Raimondo is confirmed as President Joe Biden’s commerce secretary, and his wife went online to book their appointments when the state expanded vaccination eligibility to people over the age of 65. McKee is 69.

“Vaccines are how we get Rhode Island back to school, back to work, and back to normal,” he said in a statement. “We must do everything we can to overcome vaccine hesitancy and build trust with Rhode Islanders of every background from every community.”

They are scheduled to get their second doses March 23.

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URI CASES RISE

The University of Rhode Island is warning students and staff that a rise in positive COVID-19 tests on campus could lead to additional restrictions meant to thwart the disease’s spread.

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URI had 132 positive cases last week while its positivity rate increased to just over 2%, the university said in a message to students, The Providence Journal reported Tuesday.

URI said it’s seeing evidence that increasing numbers of students are failing to follow health guidance rules regarding mask wearing and avoiding groups outside their household units.

The university also reminded students who violate the health and safety protocols that they could face a number of sanctions depending on the severity of the violations, including suspensions.

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HEALTH DEPARTMENT NUMBERS

The Rhode Island Department of Health on Tuesday reported 264 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and eight additional virus-related deaths.

There have now been almost 127,000 confirmed cases and 2,525 fatalities in the state.

The state’s average of new cases per week per 100,000 population rose to 241 this week, up from 214 last week, the department reported.

The number of patients in the state’s hospitals with the disease was down to 157 as of Sunday, the lowest single-day total since mid-October.

The latest seven-day average positivity rate in Rhode Island is 2.18%, down from 2.38% 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.

Nearly 194,000 people have received a vaccine first dose in the state, while more than 78,000 people have been fully vaccinated.