PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When it comes to implementing a statewide mask mandate, Gov. Dan McKee said Tuesday that while it’s still on the table, he doesn’t think it’s necessary right now.
“Everything is under consideration,” McKee said during his weekly media briefing. “Everything is on the table, but at the moment, I don’t see the need.”
McKee said he would only consider issuing a statewide mask mandate if the rate of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Rhode Island spike significantly.
“If we start seeing those trends, then yes, that is a possibility,” he said.
The governor also said that the Cranston field hospital will open if the state sees a significant increase in hospitalizations or a strain on staffing.
“If we need it, we will have it,” McKee said.
One of the best ways Rhode Islanders can prevent the need for a mask mandate, McKee said, is by getting vaccinated, especially with the Pfizer vaccine recently receiving full federal approval.
“Every time somebody gets vaccinated, your family is safer and you’re safer, so we encourage people to take advantage of the efforts going on right now,” he said. “Science is clear – the vaccine is safe and it saves lives.”
Earlier this month, McKee made it a requirement for all staff at state-licensed health care centers to be fully vaccinated by October.
When asked whether he will implement a vaccine mandate for state workers, McKee said it’s still being discussed, though those discussions “have been favorable.”
The Rhode Island Department of Health reported an additional 172 positive cases on Tuesday, as well as an additional two COVID-19-related deaths.
Hospitalizations increased to 115 Tuesday, with 25 patients in the intensive care unit and nine on ventilators.
The state is still considered to have high transmission of the virus, with a rate of 173 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days.
That rate, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses to track community transmission, has actually declined from a high of 202 over the past few days, following weeks of rapid growth.
McKee also acknowledged the letter he sent to President Joe Biden, which states that Rhode Island is ready to welcome Afghan refugees, who are fleeing the country following the resurgence of the Taliban.
The governor said he’s heard from several local businesses who would employ the refugees upon their arrival, though housing won’t be addressed until the state knows how many may come.
“We wouldn’t bring in more than we could handle,” McKee said.