Unlikely RI will reinstate mask mandate despite prevalence of delta variant


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The number of new coronavirus infections in Rhode Island fell on Friday, as hospitalizations likewise declined.

New data released Friday by the R.I. Department of Health shows there were 45 new positive cases, which is down from 50 the day prior.

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to decline, with 16 patients currently in medical facilities in Rhode Island.

No additional coronavirus-related deaths were reported, keeping the state’s total death toll at 2,736.

While it appears as though the numbers are trending downward, Dr. Phillip Chan, a consultant medical director at the R.I. Department of Health, tells 12 News he’s cautiously optimistic, especially with the prevalence of the delta variant.

“This delta variant is something we all have to be concerned about,” he said during an interview on 12 News Now at 4.

So far, Rhode Island health officials have only identified 14 delta variant cases, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more that have gone undetected.

When asked whether Rhode Island would consider issuing another statewide mask mandate, Chan doesn’t think so.

But he did suggest vaccinated residents change their thought process when going out in public.

“It’s prudent to avoid large gatherings, it’s prudent to avoid places where people may be sick,” Chan said. “If you do find you’re in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, certainly wear a mask.”

The state’s vaccination rate inched up Friday, according to the data. More than 1,000 additional shots have been given since the state surpassed 1.3 million total vaccine doses administered Thursday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra paid a visit to Rhode Island Friday to talk about vaccine hesitancy.

Becerra said 99% of Americans dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated. It’s a statistic that has him puzzled as to why people aren’t signing up for their chance to get a shot.

He compared getting vaccinated to wearing your seatbelt.

“If you think it’s a good idea to buckle up … then why would you not vaccinate if you know that it improves your chances [of survival]?”

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