PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s gradual return to normalcy will continue next month as state beaches reopen at full capacity, Gov. Dan McKee announced Thursday.

Scarborough North and Roger Wheeler state beaches will open the weekend of May 15, McKee said during his weekly briefing, while most others will be fully opened by Memorial Day weekend.

All last summer, parking was restricted at those beaches as a way to reduce crowds and allow beachgoers to spread out in the sand.

While the state’s outdoor mask mandate will be lifted on Friday, McKee said they must be worn in high-traffic areas like concession stands.

Memorial Day weekend also coincides with the elimination of capacity limits for Rhode Island businesses, along with the social gathering limit.

All of those changes are contingent on Rhode Islanders continuing to get vaccinated, McKee and other state leaders reiterated Thursday, so they laid out what’s being done to simplify that process for people.

“Summer’s around the corner and we can’t let up now,” McKee said. “Let’s keep going, let’s keep getting vaccinated.”

The state’s focus going forward is making vaccinations more accessible by, as COVID-19 response director Thomas McCarthy put it, is “putting vaccines in the path of Rhode Islanders.” That is, bringing shots to where people are and removing any reasons for not getting one.

On Wednesday, McKee toured an employee vaccination clinic at one of Rhode Island’s largest employers, Electric Boat. There, he announced the state is expected to receive an additional 50,000 vaccine doses from the federal government.

During the briefing, McKee said any businesses, houses of worship, and other organizations that wish to host a pop-up vaccination clinic can contact his office and they’ll make it happen.

He also discussed efforts to get students ages 16 and older vaccinated, with some schools planning to do it right on site.

Additionally, the state is moving away from releasing thousands of appointments on on Tuesday mornings and Friday evenings, according to McCarthy. Instead, he said the state will be posting smaller batches on a daily basis, as well as creating more opportunities for getting a shot without an appointment.

Effective Thursday, the state-run clinics in Providence, Cranston and Middletown will offer walk-up vaccinations on the following dates and times:

  • Cranston (100 Sockanosset Cross Road): Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Providence (Dunkin’ Donuts Center): Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Middletown (1400 West Main Road): Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

“If you want to get vaccinated at one of the state-run sites, making an appointment in advance is always the best way to go,” McCarthy added. “That way, we can guarantee that we have a slot available for you.”

Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken tells 12 News that appointments will be posted daily beginning on Friday.

Appointments are also no longer needed at roughly 80 CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Stop & Shop pharmacy locations around Rhode Island.

Data released Thursday showed more than half of Rhode Island’s population is at least partially vaccinated, having gotten the first of two Pfizer or Moderna shots, while roughly 375,000 people are considered fully vaccinated.

McKee said more vaccinations were administered last week than any other week so far.

The Health Department also reported 264 new COVID-19 cases, a 1.4% daily positivity rate and one additional death.

The state also passed 4 million total coronavirus tests administered since the start of the pandemic.

McCarthy announced the state is phasing out its preregistration system since everyone who’s signed up has already gotten vaccinated. He said people who sign up on between now and Sunday, May 2, will still get an appointment.

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