PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — All Rhode Island residents ages 16 and older will be eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine starting April 19, Gov. Daniel McKee said Thursday.
That will be possible because the state has learned that it will be getting significantly more vaccine from the federal government in the near future, the Democratic governor said at a news conference.
President Joe Biden promised last week that all of the nation’s adults would be eligible for coronavirus vaccines by May 1.
“If Rhode Island can get the vaccine supply we need, we can achieve and beat this goal,” he said. “We are confident the president will deliver.”
He warned that it will likely take two weeks or so for everyone who wants an appointment to book one, but the goal is to provide a first dose of the vaccine to everyone who signs up by the end of May, McKee said.
The state this week received about 48,000 doses, an amount expected to grow to about 51,000 next week and continue to increase gradually moving forward, Thomas McCarthy, the state’s COVID-19 response team’s executive director said.
Health officials previously announced the state will start receiving at least 16,000 weekly doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The state has already given more than 282,000 vaccine first doses while more than 136,000 people, or about 12% of the state population, have been fully vaccinated, state Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said. But she said mask-wearing is still important.
If 70% of the state population is vaccinated, the state could lift COVID-19 emergency restrictions, McKee said.
McKee pledged to bring back Newport’s jazz and folk festivals, as well as other large outdoor events, this summer after they were canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
“We are working closely with the Newport Folk and Jazz Festival on a plan that could allow them to host a safe event this summer that involves testing and other safety protocols," he said. “The good news is there will be music in Newport this summer."
He made the announcement now because he knows it takes several months to plan such large-scale events.
Folk festival organizers in a Facebook post welcomed the news.
“Governor McKee of Rhode Island has indicated that we will be able to have events this summer with modified capacities. Though Newport Folk won’t look exactly the same, we are thrilled to be bringing music and artists back to the Fort."
HEALTH DEPARTMENT STATISTICS
The Rhode Island Department of Health on Thursday said the state has more than 400 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and six more virus-related deaths.
There have now been more than 132,600 known cases and 2,594 fatalities.
The number of COVID-19 patients in the state's hispitals continues to fall, and was down to 125 as of Tuesday, down from 131 the previous day.
Dr. Ashish Jha is recommending that states continue their COVID-19 restrictions for a few more weeks because the number of new cases nationwide has stopped declining.
The nation is reporting about 50,000 infections every day, “about where we were at the height of the summer,” Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and coronavirus expert said in a Wednesday tweet.
Jha thinks the numbers are being driven by the U.K. variant of the virus.
“We are still at a high level of infection," he wrote. “We have stopped declining. Am I sure we’ll see cases rise? No, but worried. Let’s finish vaccinating high risk folks, then smartly relax public health measures. That will allow us to enjoy what should be a great summer.”
STOP & SHOP VACCINES
Several Stop & Shop supermarket locations in Rhode Island are now offering COVID-19 vaccinations, according to the company's website.
The immunizations are available by appointment only to people who live, work or go to school in the state and are eligible under state guidelines.
The company warned that vaccine supply is very limited.
The one-dose Johnson & Johnson shots are available at the Lincoln, East Providence, and North Smithfield stores and at the Warwick Avenue location in Warwick.