PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee, expected to take over as governor if Gina Raimondo is confirmed as President Joe Biden's commerce secretary, on Wednesday unveiled the members of a 20-member panel that would advise him on the state's continued response to the coronavirus pandemic, including vaccination efforts.

The COVID-19 Advisory Group includes medical professionals, lawmakers, municipal and community leaders, and others, and is co-chaired by Dr. John Stoukides, chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Roger Williams Medical Center, and Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena, a nurse.

“We want to make sure we are leveraging all the talent we have in our state, so that Rhode Island’s families can reunite, children can return to school, and small business owners can return to normal," McKee said in a written statement. "That’s why we brought together this group of experts, who will work closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health staff to help the state achieve a swift vaccine rollout.”

The other members are Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health; Hemi Tewarson, senior fellow at Duke University's Margolis Center for Health Policy; Dr. Mike Magee, a former Pfizer executive; Dr. John Morton; Maj. Gen. Christopher Callahan, adjutant general of the Rhode Island National Guard; James Tierney, Narragansett's town manager; Michael Nina, of Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island; James Cunha, Barrington's town manager; Dola Adesina, a nurse; Frank Picozzi, mayor of Warwick; Lynne Urbani, House of Representatives policy director; Democratic state Sen. Bridget Valverde; Jamie Hainsworth, Jamestown's town administrator; Robert Walsh Jr., executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island; Channavy Chhay, executive director of the Center for Southeast Asians; Joseph Andriole, president of the Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters; Roberto DaSilva, mayor of East Providence; and M. Teresa Paiva Weed, president of the Rhode Island Hospital Association and former state senator.



The state Department of Health on Wednesday reported 446 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 12 more virus-related deaths and a 3.6% daily positivity rate.

There have now been nearly 117,000 known cases in the state and 2,198 fatalities.

The number of patients in the state's hospitals with the disease had fallen to 298 as of Monday, the latest day for which the information was available, the first time it has been lower than 300 since Nov. 13.

The latest seven-day average positivity rate in Rhode Island has fallen to 3.12%. 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 now declined from more than 810 on Jan. 19 to about 542 as of Tuesday, according to the project.

Nearly 77,000 Rhode Islanders have now received their first dose of a vaccine, the state said, and more than 28,000 have received their second dose.



The Rhode Island National Guard has canceled its air show for the third year in a row.

The 2021 Open House Air Show was tentatively scheduled for late June in North Kingstown, but like the 2020 show, was canceled over coronavirus concerns, the Guard said. The 2019 show was canceled because of a high number of deployments.

“We understand what the air show means to citizens of Rhode Island, making the decision to cancel the 2021 Open House Air Show, a difficult one,” Maj. Gen. Christopher P. Callahan, the adjutant general for the Guard, said in a statement. “We explored a number of alternatives, but after careful consideration we determined there was no safe way to host this beloved event and deliver that same experience that makes it so cherished.”

The Guard has also seen “an unprecedented demand” for its services in the past year in support of the state's pandemic response, a demand it expects to continue through the summer.

Guard members were also deployed to Washington, D.C. last month to help provide security at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.