McKee’s first day in office spent encouraging people to get vaccinated

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Governor Dan McKee spent his first full day in office in the community, visiting vaccination clinics and signing an executive order to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

McKee was sworn in as the 76th Governor of Rhode Island on Tuesday night, after spending weeks working behind the scenes and awaiting former Governor Gina Raimondo to be confirmed as Commerce Secretary. The confirmation vote took place Tuesday afternoon, and Raimondo resigned shortly after 6 p.m.

The former Mayor of Cumberland started his day on a Zoom call with his staff and heads of state departments, consisting of people from Raimondo’s administration and McKee’s.

“Day one for me, right, but it’s not day one for you, and I understand that,” McKee said at the start of the call.

After addressing staff, he headed to a community vaccination clinic on Providence’s south side at the John Hope Settlement House. McKee was joined by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, City Council President Sabina Matos, and Rep. Anastasia Williams.

“This is my first day as governor and we’re going to be very intentional. We’re gonna be out in the communities because we have to keep our feet on the ground,” McKee said to the press outside of the clinic.

He spent much of the day on the city’s south side, visiting a small business and then a church, speaking with faith leaders about community engagement around the vaccine, and encouraging people that the vaccine is safe.

“COVID-19’s our enemy, and we’re gonna defeat this enemy. The only way you’re gonna do that is by bringing communities together, one at a time, and connecting them together,” McKee said outside of Iglesia Pentecostal Vision Evangelica on Broad Street. “We want to make sure that people get vaccinated, we want to make sure that people are not afraid to get vaccinated, we need to tell them that they need to get vaccinated, and we know that we need to get our teachers back in the classrooms.”

McKee then went to the State House where he signed an executive order to “engage communities in the state’s vaccination efforts and reduce vaccine hesitancy.”

“We are concerned that at some point in time we are going to have more vaccine than people actually being willing to take the vaccine, take the shot. So that’s the purpose of this executive order,” McKee said.

The mayors of Providence, Central Falls, North Providence and Westerly’s town manager were in attendance for the signing.

“We really need to follow protocols over the next few weeks. We have a variant that could potentially disrupt our recovery and we need to pay close attention and follow the protocols so that when daylight savings time comes, we’ve got past that potential problem and move on to open up the State of Rhode Island.”

McKee spoke on the topic of teachers getting vaccinated, following President Joe Biden’s urging Tuesday night to get all teachers vaccinated by the end of March. McKee, who has supported this viewpoint for weeks, said he was pleased when he heard President Biden’s announcement.

“We need to get our teachers in the classroom and we need to create a strategy to do that.”

McKee said he was on a call Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon on the matter, and said the state is working on plans to expand capacity for teachers. He said he will be discussing it with superintendents and union leaders to make it happen.

As for the budget, he said his team is still working on it, and they’re doing all they can to not raise taxes.

“If we can do it without raising taxes right now, families don’t need their taxes raised right now. We are struggling right now. When you go through tough economic times, the time to start talking about tax increases when we actually get rolling, and when we get rolling that will be a consideration.”

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Categories: Coronavirus, News, Politics, Regional News, Rhode Island