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Rhode Island expands vaccine access; allows walk-ins

April 29, 2021 GMT

Rhode Island is expanding its efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible against COVID-19 by bringing shots to businesses, colleges, high schools, and other sites, and offering no-appointment vaccinations, Gov. Daniel McKee said Thursday.

“We have moved into the next phase of vaccine distribution, which is all about meeting people where they are,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference.

Any business or school that wants to host an on-site clinic should contact his office, he said.

About 650 employees of Electric Boat in North Kingstown, one of the state’s largest private employers, were vaccinated on-site Wednesday, McKee said.

Barrington High School also announced that next month it will hold on an on-site vaccination clinic for eligible students age 16 and older.

“There are some people that don’t have enough time to head to a clinic to get vaccinated, but they would if we had a clinic in their breakroom at work,” Tom McCarthy, executive director of the state’s COVID-19 response team said. “There are some high school seniors who have trouble getting to a vaccination clinic, but would be vaccinated if there’s a clinic in their gymnasium.”

People who don’t want to preregister or make an appointment for a shot now don’t have to, he said.

To that end, state-run mass vaccination clinics in Providence, Cranston and Middletown are offering shots to walk-ins starting immediately. Also, retail vaccination sites including CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, Walmart and Stop & Shop supermarkets will now offer vaccinations to people without an appointment, he said.

McCarthy cautioned that walk-in patients will only be vaccinated if there are shots available and encouraged people to continue making appointments just to be safe.

Dr. Philip Chan, an infectious disease specialist with the department, said vaccines work and urged residents not to hesitate and make sure they get their second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations.

“The vaccine is working ... for example, our hospitalization rate for people age 60 and over is down 80% from its peak,” he said.

To date, more than 375,500 people in Rhode Island have been fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health.

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BEACHES

Rhode Island’s state beaches are expected to open to full capacity this summer, McKee said.

Some beaches, including Scarborough and Roger Wheeler, will open on May 15, and all state beaches will open by Memorial Day, he said. Masks will still be required at concessions stands and other crowded areas, he said.

State beaches were allowed to open last summer but with reduced capacity in the parking lots to prevent overcrowding.

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HEALTH DEPARTMENT UPDATES

The Rhode Island Department of Health on Thursday reported almost 300 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and one coronavirus-related death.

There have now been almost 148,000 known cases and 2,669 fatalities in the state.

The daily positivity rate for Wednesday was about 1.4%, and Chan said weekly positivity rates are at their lowest levels since mid-October.

There were 150 COVID-19 patients in Rhode Island hospitals at last count as of Tuesday.

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ARTS FUNDING

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is getting more than $750,000 in federal coronavirus relief funding to help arts-related small businesses, artists, and arts and culture organizations recover from the pandemic, officials said Thursday.

The council’s staff during the next several weeks will review federal guidance as it determines how these funds can best be used to support the recovery of a key economic sector.

“Rhode Island artists, arts and culture organizations, arts educators and the entire community were hard hit by the pandemic and these funds will assist in the difficult work of rebuilding the arts economically, educationally and culturally,” Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of RISCA, said in a statement.

Rhode Island’s arts sector contributed $2 billion to the state economy and supported almost 18,000 jobs before the pandemic.

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URI COMMENCEMENT GUESTS

University of Rhode Island students graduating this spring will now be allowed to invite two guests to commencement ceremonies, the school said.

The school in the announcement Wednesday said the decision was made in line with the state’s easing of coronavirus restrictions on outdoor gatherings.

All graduates and guests must have tickets to enter Meade Stadium for any commencement activity from May 21-23. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will not be required for entrance to the stadium, but all attendees must wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines, the school said.