PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo answered questions publicly for the first time in weeks on Tuesday evening.
12 News caught up with Raimondo outside the State House after she took part in a virtual briefing on the state’s vaccine rollout.
Raimondo is expected to join President Joe Biden’s cabinet as secretary of commerce. Her nomination for the role was approved last week by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and now awaits a confirmation vote on the Senate floor.
She previously pledged to remain in office until then and reaffirmed that on Tuesday, saying she will not resign. She also assured that her transition to Washington isn’t affecting her duties as governor.
“I can tell you I’m working as hard as I ever have as the governor,” Raimondo said. “My day-to-day hasn’t changed that much.”
“I owe it to the people of Rhode Island to do that, to work as hard as I can until the moment I’m no longer the governor,” she continued. “That’s what I’m doing, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Once Raimondo is confirmed, Lt. Gov. Dan McKee will become Rhode Island’s next governor.
Raimondo said the Biden administration has not requested that she not answer questions.
“I thought that was appropriate in this transition to let Lt. Gov. McKee step out in front,” she said. “By the way, he’s doing a great job. We talk every day, if not more than once a day, his team and my team are in contact all day long.”
“I just felt it was appropriate that he step out and Rhode Islanders start to get comfortable with him as the face of leading the COVID response,” Raimondo added.
Since Dec. 22, Raimondo has made only three public appearances in Rhode Island (her final COVID-19 briefing, last week’s State of the State address, and Tuesday’s virtual event) but during each one, took no questions from reporters.
Raimondo also addressed concerns about the state’s vaccine rollout, saying she knows Rhode Islanders are frustrated with the pace of vaccinations, but added that “our strategy is working.”
Like state health officials have been saying for weeks, Raimondo reiterated that as Rhode Island gets more supply, more vaccinations will occur. The state is set to be allocated up to 19,000 first doses per week by the end of February.
“Rhode Island’s actually doing very well, relative to other states, in terms of people being fully vaccinated with the two shots,” Raimondo said. “Having said that, we’re going to keep working to make sure it goes faster and faster.”
Data provided by the R.I. Department of Health shows as of Tuesday, just over 38,000 people had been fully vaccinated, while more than 89,000 had received their first shot of the two-dose regimen.
“I think a few weeks from now, you’ll see several state-run mass vaccination sites up and running like the one in Cranston, the one at the Dunk,” Raimondo said. “It’s a huge effort. No one’s ever done this before. I think we’re in good shape. In two weeks from now, we’ll be in better shape.”
In addition to eventual state-run vaccine sites, Raimondo said she believes it was a sensible choice to rely on retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens because they have the necessary infrastructure in place to handle vaccine administration, and they’re in locations more accessible to the community.
However, she said there has still been “too many bumps in the road.”
“On Sunday, I called the folks at CVS to say this isn’t going the way we need it to go,” Raimondo recalled. “It’s getting better, and I think it will get better. There are kinks. They are committed to working out the kinks with us.”
“In a month from now, when we are trying to vaccinate the whole population, I think the retail pharmacy will be the way to go, but we have some work to do to get it to where it needs to be,” she said.