PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island is trending in the right direction when it comes to COVID-19, the latest data from the R.I. Department of Health shows, but vaccination rates have also slowed among some communities and age groups.
Case rates have fallen sharply over the past month. The rate used to track community transmission of the virus — new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day span — has dropped by nearly 90% from an all-time high of 3,614 on Jan. 9 to 368 on Feb. 9.
The seven-day average for new cases has also fallen by almost 90% since early January, while the average for COVID-19 hospitalizations has dropped by over 40%.
On Thursday, the Health Department reported 451 new cases and a 3.9% daily positivity rate, with more than 11,500 tests administered the previous day.
Six more Rhode Islanders have died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 3,375.
Hospitalizations are down to 259, which is the fewest in the state since Dec. 5. Of the current patients, 35 are in the ICU and 22 are on ventilators, according to health officials.
With the COVID-19 data on the decline, Gov. Dan McKee announced updates to the state’s mask policies on Wednesday. After this week, most establishments can stop requiring patrons to either wear a mask or provide proof of vaccination, while the statewide school mask mandate will end on March 4 as long as the data trends continue to improve.
McKee and other state officials did, however, highlight the fact that vaccination rates have been lagging as of late, especially when it comes to booster doses.
The Health Department’s data shows that while nearly 80% of Rhode Island’s population has completed the primary vaccine series, just 37.5% has gotten a booster so far.
Some communities like Barrington, East Greenwich, Jamestown, New Shoreham and North Kingstown rank among the highest vaccinated cities and towns, with 90% to 100% of eligible residents at least partially vaccinated.
But others such as Burrillville, Foster, Glocester, Tiverton and Woonsocket have yet to even hit 70% partially vaccinated.
During Wednesday’s briefing, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green pointed out inconsistencies in the rates among certain school districts.
“The vaccination rate in Barrington is 78% in the schools. It’s 32% in Providence, 31% in Central Falls,” she said. “We have to do better.”
The rates also vary by age. In South Kingstown, for instance, 72% of residents have gotten at least one dose, but just 36% of people under the age of 25 have gotten vaccinated.