PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island House of Representatives COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force met Tuesday afternoon to hear an update on the vaccine program and other COVID-19-related matters.
Health officials briefed the house task force on a number of topics including the delta variant, an update on school vaccines, mask mandates for health care workers, and vaccine mandates.
Among some of the early topics discussed is the news from Pfizer, seeking approval for its vaccine to be used in kids ages 5 to 11. On Monday, Pfizer reported that in a trial of participants 5 to 11 years of age, the company’s vaccine was “safe, well-tolerated and showed robust neutralizing antibody responses.”
Dr. Philip Chan told lawmakers that the modeling the Department of Health has been using for infections rates are looking better than before, and they are seeing indications that the increase in hospital admissions may start to level off, but the state is not out of the woods yet.
“We are seeing and we are concerned about a little bit of a bump due to opening of schools, both K-12 as well as colleges and universities. Some of you may have read in the paper there was a bump at the universities with asymptomatic cases, and there’s Labor Day as well,” Chan said.
Vaccine requirements for health workers were another big topic at the briefing. Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott says some unvaccinated workers can remain employed past the October deadline set by Governor Dan McKee, but only if it’s necessary to keep quality of care.
The facility will then have to submit a plan to have such workers vaccinated with 30 days, and specify what measures are being taken to prevent infection.
When asked by Rep. Michael Chippendale why natural immunity isn’t considered for health care workers who have already had COVID, Alexander-Scott explained that’s not how it works.
“If that worked, it would certainly be something we would offer,” she said. “We just have the data that shows natural immunity alone is not effective in what we are seeing with this delta strain because of how transmissible it is.”
Roughly 63% of Rhode Island’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the latest data shows.
On Tuesday, health officials reported 329 new positive cases and one additional death, while hospitalizations increased to 124.
The Health Department also updated its weekly data, which showed increases in new hospital admissions (from 97 last week to 128 this week) and new cases per 100,000 people (from 214 to 229) but a decline in percent positive by week, from 2.5% to 2.2%.