RI reports new COVID-19 data; Lt. Gov. McKee criticizes Raimondo administration vaccine rollout

"Throughout this transition, my message to the public has been stay positive and test negative. As Governor, my message to everyone involved in the state’s vaccine distribution effort will be equally as simple: Let’s get shots in arms right now."
Raimondo, McKee

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Rhode Island released the state’s most recent COVID-19 data on Monday.  Shortly after, incoming governor Dan McKee released a  statement, criticizing the current administration’s progress on the vaccination rollout.

Health officials reported 895 new cases of the virus from over the weekend. Out of the 5,975 tests administered on Sunday, the state collected a positivity rate of 3.4%.

Another 44 Rhode Islanders died after contracting the virus, according to the Department of Health.

The state’s death toll now stands at 2,334.

The Department of Health said there are currently 181 Rhode Islanders hospitalized for COVID-19. 35 of those patients are in the ICU and 16 are on a ventilator.

Since mid-December, the state has fully immunized 46,874 people. 101,461 people have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee released a statement on Rhode Island’s vaccine rollout, which criticized the current administration’s progress.

“Like most Rhode Islanders, I am not satisfied with the current administration’s progress on vaccine distribution, especially as we see our neighbors in Connecticut ranked among the top in the nation,” McKee said Monday afternoon.

McKee said speeding up the vaccine distribution is his top priority, and plans to reach out to Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, leaders at Harvard University, and his transition advisers to help properly prepare Rhode Island while expanding distribution capacity.

“Our transition team has already successfully engaged all 39 municipalities in the state’s vaccination planning and enabled EMTs to administer vaccines alongside other medical professionals. Still, we know that Rhode Island has much more work to do to get shots in arms quickly and efficiently,” McKee stated.

He continued, “Throughout this transition, my message to the public has been stay positive and test negative. As Governor, my message to everyone involved in the state’s vaccine distribution effort will be equally as simple: Let’s get shots in arms right now.”

McKee is set to take over the Governor position once Gov. Gina Raimondo leaves to join the Biden administration as U.S. commerce secretary.

Joseph Wendelken, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Health, said in response to McKee’s statement that the state took a targeted approach in the first portion of the vaccination campaign.

“Our goal is to prevent hospitalizations and deaths. To do that, we made a strategic choice to prioritize vaccinating residents in our nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” Wendelken told ABC6 on Monday. “We ​did that because we know that our nursing homes are where we have seen the majority of our fatalities. And it is critical that we get our healthcare workers vaccinated in advance of the new, more contagious strains coming to Rhode Island.”

Wendelken said that this targeted approach takes longer than mass-vaccinations at public clinics.

Because of this, other states are collecting higher administration rates. Wendelken said that Rhode Island’s approach has resulted in drops in cases among healthcare workers and those in nursing homes.

“We have also seen a significant decline in overall hospitalizations since we began vaccinating healthcare workers and congregate care residents in December. For example, the number of hospitalizations for congregate setting residents dropped by 49% from December to January (from 273 to 138). For the first portion of the vaccination campaign, these kinds of metrics were the most important metrics,” Wendelken continued.

Wendelken said the Department of Health is going everything the can do get shots in arms as quickly as possible, especially in the state’s vulnerable populations.

“Later this week we will open two mass vaccination sites for Rhode Islanders for age-based vaccinating. Vaccinating in this way is faster and less operationally complex. When these sites are open, ​we fully expect that our administration rate will rapidly improve,” Wendelken said.

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