PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Newly sworn in Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee got straight to work Wednesday in his first full day in office, which was largely centered around getting more people vaccinated against COVID-19.
After touring a vaccination clinic in Providence and paying a visit to small businesses, McKee gathered with several mayors outside of the State House and signed an executive order seeking to increase city and town involvement in the vaccine rollout, saying we need a “whole government, full state response” to beat COVID-19.
“We know the fastest way out of this pandemic is through getting shots in arms quickly and simply,” he said. “Vaccines are how we get Rhode Islanders back to work, how we get Rhode Islanders back to school, and our businesses back in business.”
The order also encourages all state and municipal employees to get the shot once they become eligible and aims to reduce vaccine hesitancy through community outreach.
“As a state, we must do everything we can to overcome vaccine hesitancy and build trust with Rhode Islanders of every background, from every community,” McKee said. “These vaccines are safe and they will save lives.”
“We are concerned that at some point in time we are going to have more vaccine than the number of people willing to take the shot,” he added.
Data released Wednesday by the R.I. Department of Health shows more than 200,000 people will be at least partially vaccinated by day’s end.
As of 12:30 p.m., 199,984 first doses of the vaccine had been administered, while nearly 80,000 people in the state have gotten both doses for full vaccination.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was cleared for use in Rhode Island by the state’s COVID-19 vaccine subcommittee Wednesday morning, requires only a single shot. The state expects to receive its first shipment of doses later this week, but it remains unclear who will be eligible to receive them.
Teachers and other school staffers became eligible Wednesday to sign up for a vaccine appointment at a participating CVS Health pharmacy. However, they’re not yet eligible to receive a shot at one of the state’s mass vaccination clinics.
McKee reiterated to 12 News that he wants to see educators prioritized.
His counterpart across the border, Gov. Charlie Baker, announced Wednesday that teachers in Massachusetts will be eligible starting next Thursday, March 11.
The Health Department also reported 376 new coronavirus infections and a 2.2% daily positivity rate, with more than 17,000 tests administered the previous day.
Another nine people have died after contracting COVID-19, bringing the reported death toll to 2,534.
Hospitalizations declined further to 147, with 23 patients currently in the intensive care unit and 14 on ventilators, according to health officials.