COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to decline in RI; 366 new cases, 16 deaths

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Nearly 96,000 people in Rhode Island have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while more than 42,000 are fully vaccinated after receiving both required shots, according to data released Friday by the R.I. Department of Health.

During the weekly briefing on Thursday, Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott announced that two state-run vaccination sites will open next Thursday, Feb. 18, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence and the former Citizens Bank headquarters on Sockanosset Cross Road in Cranston.

Registration for those clinics will open on Wednesday, and appointments can be booked online or by phone.

Friday was first day for in-store vaccinations at CVS locations participating in a federal pharmacy program, but eligible residents may have trouble finding an available appointment right away.

“We had to be aggressive,” said Josiah Strandverg, 79, of Providence. “We got up at 6 in the morning the day they said it and got an appointment.”

Joseph Wendelken, spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Health, said they’ve used a targeted approach with the vaccine rollout and so far, it’s worked the way they wanted it to, with case numbers among the most vulnerable populations being down.

“That’s important because we need our hospitals, we need our health care system to be there for people so they can get care for COVID or other issues,” Wendelken said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations on Friday fell to 222, which is the fewest in the state since early November, the data shows. Of the current patients, 39 are in the intensive care unit and 22 are on ventilators.

Beginning next week, the state’s homeless population will start getting vaccinated, according to Wendelken. He said it will be a gradual approach, starting with two clinics, eventually expending to eight or nine statewide.

The Health Department on Friday also reported 366 new coronavirus cases and more than 18,600 tests administered the previous day, putting the daily positivity rate at 2%.

Another 16 people have died after contracting the virus, health officials said, bringing the total to 2,290 since the pandemic hit Rhode Island.

State officials also announced that starting Friday, the social gathering limit increased to two households when indoors and three households outdoors, bar areas at restaurants can reopen with restrictions, and the capacity limit for venues of assembly increased to 40%.

Although the state appears to be in a calmer period now, Alexander-Scott warned this could be “the calm before the storm” as the Health Department continues to monitor for new, highly contagious variants of the coronavirus.

The R.I. House of Representatives COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force said it’s scheduled its next virtual meeting for Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 4 p.m.

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