More vaccine appointments, clinics coming to RI; Leaders calling for safe celebrations this weekend

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – State leaders called for safe celebrations this holiday weekend during Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing, and also announced the opening of three regional clinics and additional appointment slots as vaccine eligibility expands.

“We saw a huge spike in cases after Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s. We cannot let that happen again,” said Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, Dr. Nicole-Alexander Scott. “We’re asking you to please still err on the side of caution.”

As Easter and Passover celebrations approach, the health department is hoping the holidays don’t cause a spike in cases, and Dr. Alexander-Scott shared ways families can celebrate safely.

“If people are going to be seeing extended family this weekend, celebrating outdoors is always safer. If you are indoors, seating people farther apart is important, and mask-wearing is very important as well.”

The director said cases in the state were plateauing, but are now slightly going up.

“Our case numbers have plateaued. That plateau is actually now starting to have a slightly upward slope,” the director said. “24 out of 39 cities and towns have had some type of increase. Some of the communities where we are seeing particular increases are in Middletown, Bristol, Smithfield, and parts of Warwick, West Warwick, Providence and Cranston.”

RIDOH estimates 40% of positive cases in the state are variant cases. The director warned that it could get worse, and the UK strain could be dominant by the end of the month.

“We expect that the B117 variant, which is one of the newer ones, is the dominant strain and could be so in Rhode Island as soon as some point in April.”

Meanwhile, the state is ramping up vaccinations, opening 12,000 appointment slots Friday at 5 p.m. through the state’s portal.

“The number of vaccines coming into Rhode Island continues to increase, more supply allows us to expand vaccination efforts,” said Governor Dan McKee.

Also, three regional sites will open next week.

“We’ll be vaccinating at the new regional clinics in Westerly, East Providence and Johnston. Each of these clinics will be administering 1200 doses a week,” said Tom McCarthy, executive director of the state’s COVID response.

On Monday, those aged 50-59 will become eligible for a vaccine. Appointments at CVS and Walgreens will open to this age group Monday at midnight, and more appointments at the state-run sites will open on Tuesday.

“After tomorrow, the next large batch of appointments for the mass vaccination sites will be posted on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.,” said McCarthy.

On Wednesday, the first notifications will be pushed out through the vaccine notification system that allows people to pre-register for a vaccine appointment. People on the list will receive a notification either by text, phone call or email with an available appointment slot at one of the vaccination sites.

The appointments will be a few weeks out from the initial notification.

The state said 79,000 people have already signed up for the list. Click here for more information.

On the topic of schools, Governor McKee announced distancing between students would be reduced from 6 feet to 3 feet on April 26, and childcare centers will be allowed to return to 100% capacity on that day.

McKee said cases have ticked up in those aged 10 to 14 and said Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green will be in attendance for next week’s press conference.

©WLNE-TV/ABC6 2021

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Regional News, Rhode Island