PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — With more than half the state's population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and the number of new confirmed cases falling, Rhode Island is scaling back its COVID-19 testing program, the state Department of Health announced Monday.
The state was testing about 125,000 people per week in April, but that has since fallen to about 50,000 per week.
By the end of the month, more than a dozen sites will stop offering testing, and be consolidated into 25 sites throughout the state so all residents have convenient access to free testing.
The state is also offering mobile and popup testing in places where it is needed most, like schools, communities with low vaccination rates, travel destinations, and in places experiencing outbreaks.
Retail pharmacies and medical offices will also continue to offer testing.
“The COVID-19 positivity rate in Rhode Island has gone down and vaccination rates are among the highest in the nation,” department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said in a statement. “But the pandemic is not over, and Rhode Islanders need to remain vigilant. COVID-19 testing will continue to be a critical tool in identifying disease and preventing outbreaks.”
The state still has the ability to ramp up testing capacity if needed.
HEALTH DEPARTMENT DATA
The Rhode Island Department of Health on Monday reported 60 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past three days, but no COVID-19 related deaths.
The state has now gone eight consecutive days without a virus-related death.
The department does not update its numbers on weekends.
The number of people in the state's hospitals is holding steady at 33, according to the latest data. Five of those patients are in intensive care.
The number of people in the state who have been fully vaccinated has now surpassed 596,000.
NEWPORT ST. PATRICK'S DAY PARADE
The Newport St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been canceled outright for the second year in a row.
The March 2020 parade was canceled because of the panedmic and this year's parade was postponed until September, but organizers told The Newport Daily News on Sunday that the city decided that date was not feasible.
The parade dates to the 1950s.
The city suggested a parade in November or December, instead, but “those dates didn’t work for us,” said Dennis Sullivan, chair of the Newport St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.
As an alternative, the parade committee is now planning a St. Patrick’s Day party for Sept. 25 featuring bands moving from business to business. The idea is that a band will play for awhile in one restaurant or bar, then move on to the next participating business, Sullivan said.
Several bands and restaurants have already expressed an interest in participating, he said.