PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee and Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos held their third non-COVID briefing on Thursday, however, it centered largely around the mask mandate being lifted earlier in the day.
Last month, McKee and Matos announced that after a year of holding news conferences on the pandemic, they wanted to give reporters a regular opportunity to ask them questions on topics unrelated to COVID-19.
McKee said the updated guidelines may take some time to phase in.
“There’s going to be a transition here as people get more and more confidence about the federal guidance,” he said.
McKee said it will be up to individual businesses to decide how they want to apply the new guidelines, as some owners have asked for more clarity on what’s expected of them.
“We are going to use this as an opportunity to vaccinate more people,” he added. “We are going to be talking to the business community as well about vaccinations, but if they still want to hold onto their mask policy in their business, they can.”
The governor was asked how the changes affect mask-wearing in schools. He said that while it’s currently required for students, the state will follow the CDC’s guidance.
“The goal is to have everybody back in the classroom safely,” McKee said. “If CDC says safely is no masks, then we are going to support that. If they say they want masks, then we are going to support that.”
Guidance around masks at summer camps and other outdoor activities will be released shortly, according to the the governor.
With the state set to move to 100% capacity for businesses and services later this week, McKee was asked why the State House remains closed to the public. He explained they have a working committee meeting on the topic to make it happen as quickly as possible.
On Monday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced his emergency order put in place at the start of the pandemic will end on June 15. McKee said he has similar plans in mind.
“It’s coming. I just can’t give you a date on that,” he said.
Matos emphasized that she and McKee are working as a team, using the example of them visiting Quahog Week and a vaccination clinic together last week.
“We’ve been visiting a lot of the same places,” she said. “We continue working really hard with collaboration.”
McKee also discussed that taxes will not be increased this year, despite calls for tax hikes on higher earners.
“I don’t think it’s time to have tax increases anywhere,” he said.
McKee added that he plans to meet with R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green to discuss the controversy surrounding the arrest of Dr. Olayinka Alege, a former Providence Public Schools administrator.
When the governor was asked if he plans to greet President Joe Biden when he lands at Quonset State Airport on Wednesday, McKee said he was not sure about the details yet. Biden is scheduled to give remarks at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s commencement ceremony.