COVID Updates: 16+ Vaccine Eligible April 19; Summer Festivals a (Modified) Go

by | Mar 18, 2021

EG Clinic Winding Down

Gov. Dan McKee said Thursday Rhode Island would open COVID-19 vaccinations to all residents 16 and older starting April 19, echoing actions taken by neighboring states. But after a week of frustration over lack of available appointments for many 60- to 64-year-olds and those with underlying medical conditions newly eligible for the vaccine, McKee asked people to be patient.

“When we open up eligibility on the 19th, that doesn’t mean you’ll have an appointment by the next day,” he said during the weekly COVID-19 press conference. “It will likely take a few weeks to make an appointment.” 

Noting President Joe Biden’s goal of May for at least first doses for everyone (16 and older), McKee said that’s possible. 

“If Rhode Island can get the vaccine supply we need, we can meet and achieve that goal,” he said. Right now, the state has the capacity to administer 100,000 doses a week but is getting more like 47,000 doses a week, according to Tom McCarthy, director of RIDOH’s COVID-19 unit. And, with 150,000 additional Rhode Islanders newly eligible last week (those 60 to 65 and those with underlying health conditions), “the demand far outpaced supply.”

McCarthy said the state was adding appointments as vaccine doses become available, including an additional 1,500 appointments added to the state vaccine signup Thursday afternoon. (The state routinely adds new appointments Tuesdays and Fridays.)

“We’re building out capacity,” he said. “We can deliver 100,000 a week right now. By the end of month, we should be at 160,000 per week.” He said state officials had “high confidence” they will be in a much better position to administer lots of vaccinations by April 19.

When asked why the state opened eligibility to an additional 150,000 people if officials knew there would not be enough appointments – by far – McKee said, “We understand there’s not enough supply to cover the demand, but we’ve got to make sure we get every shot in an arm that we possibly can,” adding that his administration was “going to keep up the pressure on D.C.” for more vaccine doses.

‘There will be music in Newport this summer’

Also at the press conference Thursday, McKee said his administration was working closely with the organizers of the Newport folk and jazz festivals. “The good news is there’s going to be music in Newport this summer,” he said. 

Larger events in general are getting the green light, or at least the yellow light, to proceed by submitting plans to the state Department of Business Regulation (DBR). Organizers looking to hold an event after May 1 between 500 and 1,000 people should reach out to DBR, said DBR head Stefan Pryor. Starting July 15, events of more than 1,000 could be allowed, as long as they seek DBR approval.

In East Greenwich

On the local level, Town Manager Andy Nota said Thursday the clinic at Swift Community Center would likely close after second doses are delivered April 7. There are clinics March 22, April 1 and that final one April 7. 

The state is planning to open at least three “regional” community sites – in Westerly (already open), North Providence and possibly Smithfield. Nota said he has communicated with state officials the need for at least a couple of vaccination sites in southern Rhode Island (in addition to Westerly). 

The state has contracted with three companies to deliver vaccinations to homebound individuals. If you or a loved one is homebound and needs the vaccine, you are encouraged to fill out this form.

Here are appointment options for those Rhode Islanders who are eligible (find out if you’re eligible HERE):

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