PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The mass vaccination sites at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence and the former Benny’s in Middletown will close on June 26, Gov. Dan McKee said Thursday, as the state shifts to community clinics in an effort to get vaccines to those who haven’t gotten a shot yet.
McKee said closing the mass vaccination site at the Dunk, which opened in February, will allow the facility to start holding events this summer. The Dunk first served as a rapid COVID testing center before being converted to a mass vaccination site.
The mass vaccination site on Sockanosset Cross Road in Cranston will remain open until the fall, said Tom McCarthy, the executive director of the state’s COVID response.
McCarthy said the state is not winding down its vaccination efforts, but entering a new phase to bring vaccines directly to people who haven’t sought them out yet.
Pop-up clinics are expected at Roger Williams Park Zoo, farmer’s markets and beaches, McCarthy said, and a drive-through clinic is opening in Smithfield.
McKee said the state is focused on getting children 12 and older vaccinated ahead of the new school year in the fall, when he said school districts will no longer be required to provide a virtual learning option. (Children younger than 12 are not currently eligible for the vaccine.)
“Our goal is to have all students in the classroom,” McKee said.
The biweekly COVID-19 briefing was held at the State House for the first time since last year, when former Gov. Gina Raimondo moved the briefings to the Veterans Memorial Auditorium to allow for social distancing.
McKee reiterated the state’s new mask guidelines announced Tuesday, which allow all Rhode Islanders to go maskless outside regardless of vaccination status. The new rules apply to outdoor activities for youth such sports and summer camp, though indoor masks are still required for those who are not vaccinated.
Masks are also still required for everyone in health care settings, schools, child care, public transit and any business that chooses to require masks.
“We are well on our way to having a great summer,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the R.I. Department of Health.
But she emphasized that unmasked summer activities are geared towards fully vaccinated people.
“If you are not fully vaccinated you cannot rely on natural immunity or herd immunity for your and your loved ones to be protected,” she said.
She noted that new variants of COVID-19 continue to be the predominant strains spreading in Rhode Island, another reason to get vaccinated.
“The COVID-19 vaccine protects against these variants,” she said.
On Thursday, the Health Department reported 559,801 people are fully vaccinated and 656,176 have at least one shot.
With many colleges requiring vaccinations for the fall and schools seeking to reopen fully in person, Alexander-Scott said students should be getting their first shot by July 4 at the latest, so they’ll be fully vaccinated before school opens. (A person is fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose.)
The Department of Health also reported 35 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, with nearly 11,000 tests conducted the prior day, bringing the percent positivity rate to 0.3%.
The data shows three additional people have died after contracting the virus, bringing the state’s total death toll to 2,715.
Health officials reported 44 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19, with eight patients in the intensive care unit and eight patients on ventilators.
The next COVID-19 briefing is scheduled for Thursday, June 17.