The Associated Press
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday promised a smooth transition in the state’s response to the coronavirus when Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee takes over if she is confirmed as President-elect Joe Biden’s commerce secretary.
“We will not miss a beat,” the Democratic governor said in her first news conference since before Christmas and her first since her nomination last week.
“I have every confidence in him and I know he is ready to step up on day one,” she said.
McKee in his own brief statement praised Raimondo for her response to the pandemic and congratulated her on her nomination, something he said the whole state could be proud of.
He said he is confident because her office has communicated with him to kept him abreast of developments in the state’s pandemic response all along.
Raimondo said there is some good news with vaccines being rolled out. The state’s weekly positivity rate is on the decline and the rate of new hospitalizations is at its lowest level since mid-November.
“I would say we’re on a good path,” she said, telling people to remain vigilant and keep taking precautions such as mask wearing to stop the spread of the virus.
Even so, Raimondo on Wednesday extended current restrictions on gatherings and businesses until mid-February.
Raimondo also pledged to ramp up testing.
The state will soon be able to conduct 25,000 tests per day and plans to open more drive-thru rapid testing sites where residents can get their results in 15 minutes without ever leaving their car, she said. The state also plans to introduce expanded testing at work places and in schools.
Raimondo did not take any questions after her briefing.
Rhode Island’s coronavirus vaccination program is among the most efficient in the country and is being limited only by the short supply of vaccines, state Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said Wednesday.
The state is pretty much getting coronavirus vaccines into the arms of its residents within days of receiving them. The state is getting about 14,000 doses per week of the two vaccines authorized for emergency use and is administering about 2,000 per day, she said.
The state has the infrastructure in place to administer more vaccines but is not getting enough supply.
The state has administered more than 38,000 first doses and nearly 7,500 second doses so far, the department said Wednesday.
Health care workers and people living in congregate care settings remain a priority, but dentists and other providers in outpatient settings could start being vaccinated as soon as next week, she said.
The Rhode Island Department of Health on Wednesday reported nearly 1,100 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 17 more virus-related deaths.
The total number of known cases has now passed 102,000 while the number of fatalities is now 1,987.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from more than 800 on Dec. 29 to more than 1,077 on Tuesday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
The latest seven-day average positivity rate in Rhode Island is 6.26%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.