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Gov. McKee: New mask guidance may take time to phase in

May 18, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee’s news conference to discuss all things non-coronavirus quickly turned into an explanation of the state’s new COVID-19 face-covering guidance, which went into effect Tuesday.

Rhode Islanders who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will no longer be required to wear face coverings in most situations, a decision based on recommendations by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But McKee said the new guidance may take time to phase in, WPRI-TV reported.

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“There’s going to be a transition here as people get more and more confidence about the federal guidance,” he said.

It will be up to individual businesses to decide how they want to apply the new guidelines, while some business owners have asked for more clarity on what’s expected of them.

He also said the state will follow CDC guidance on masks in schools, which are still required because most students are not vaccinated.

“The goal is to have everybody back in the classroom safely, if CDC says safely is no masks, then we are going to support that, if they say they want masks then we are going to support that,” the Democratic governor said.

Guidance around masks at summer camps and other outdoor activities will be released shortly, he said.

The state has also out together a committee to determine when the State House will be reopened to the public.

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ECONOMIC RECOVERY

Rhode Island’s economy is growing as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, but the state still trails the region and nation, according to a new report.

Rhode Island’s gross domestic product is projected to have grown by 3.5% in the first quarter, but that trails New England, with projected growth of 5.2%, and the nation at 6.4%, according to a report published Tuesday by the Center for Global and Regional Economic Studies at Bryant University and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, The Providence Journal reported.

Rhode Island’s “growth gap” existed before the coronavirus pandemic but only widened over the past year, the report said.

Rhode Island regained some jobs but has not made up for losses suffered at the start of the pandemic, according to the report.

“We’ve come a long way from our economic freefall last spring,” RIPEC President and CEO Michael DiBiase said in a release, “but the briefing reveals stubborn structural weaknesses that are slowing our recovery and make the Ocean State more vulnerable in the future.”

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COLLEGE STUDENT SHOTS

The University of Rhode Island and the New England Institute of Technology are the latest colleges in the state to require vaccinations for all students returning to campus in the fall.

All URI students will need to provide proof of vaccination, or have an approved exemption, by Aug. 16, the university said in a statement Tuesday.

“The COVID‑19 vaccines are widely available, safe, greatly limit the transmission of the virus, and have been shown to nearly eliminate the chances of death or serious illness related to a COVID‑19 infection,” the statement said. “The vaccines are a critical element in protecting public health locally and worldwide.”

New England Tech, with campuses in East Greenwich and Warwick, announced Monday that it will require all students involved in on-campus classes or activities to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before the fall. Medical and religious exemptions will be allowed.

Brown, Roger Williams and Johnson & Wales are among the other colleges in the state that have previously announced student vaccination mandates.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.