Dozens of COVID-19 vaccine appointments canceled in RI due to ineligibility; 1,081 new infections, 15 deaths reported

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — More than 25,000 people in Rhode Island have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 400 have been fully vaccinated, according to new data released Tuesday by the R.I. Department of Health.

The Health Department held a Zoom briefing Tuesday afternoon to provide an update on the distribution process. Dr. Philip Chan, a consultant medical director, said the state is in a good place but it’s not receiving enough of the vaccine.

According to Chan, vaccinating all Rhode Islanders with the current influx of 14,000 doses per week isn’t feasible.

“To put that in context, that’s enough to vaccinate roughly 1.5% of the state in a given week,” he explained.

Chan said the amount of doses Rhode Island receives may increase by March.

In total, the state has gotten 46,000 doses so far.

Alysia Mihalakos, the head of the Health Department’s Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response, provided insight on why the amount of doses administered and received are so different.

“We receive it at a state storage and redistribution site so that we can break it down and push it out to partners,” Mihalakos said. “So it makes it very difficult to plan for same-week use of the vaccine.”

Mihalakos also said the Health Department has had to cancel around 300 appointments due to people eligible to receive the vaccine during the first phase of the rollout sharing the sign-up link with family and friends who are currently ineligible, which is limiting the slots available to frontline health care workers.

Phase 1 of the vaccination program is expected to run through March. Chan said outpatient providers like primary care doctors and dentists are next in line to receive the vaccine, along with people over 75 years of age.

While supply is the limiting factor right now, Chan said he’s still hopeful that some degree of normalcy can return to Rhode Island by late spring.

“I’m going to be optimistic because remember, the vaccine is a piece of the puzzle, it’s a piece of our response — an important piece and critical piece — but also we have natural immunity from the percent of population that has been infected,” he said. “We have masking and physical distancing, and I think by spring and summer people will be outdoors again.”

Health officials on Tuesday also reported 1,081 new infections and a daily positivity rate of 8.8%, with 12,292 tests administered the previous day.

Another 15 people in the state have died after contracting the virus, bringing the reported death toll to 1,870.

As of midday Tuesday, 409 COVID-19 patients were in Rhode Island’s hospitals, with 56 in intensive care and 40 on ventilators, according to health officials.

The Health Department also updated its weekly data, which showed a decline in new hospital admissions by week (from 406 last week to 365 this week) but increases in percent positive by week (from 5.6% to 7.4%) and new cases per 100,000 residents by week (from 491 to 668).

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s first coronavirus briefing of the year has been postponed until 1 p.m. Friday after she was identified as a close contact and had to enter quarantine.

Outgoing Cranston Mayor revealed Monday that he tested positive for the virus. Retired R.I. Supreme Court justice Flaherty also tested positive, according to a spokesperson for the R.I. Judiciary.

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