Rhode Island works on vaccine incentive plan to help charity

In what may be the last of scores of regularly-scheduled coronavirus briefings dating to early 2020, (from left) Dr. Philip Chan of the RI Department of Health, Gov. Dan McKee, sign language interpreter Charley Thorn and Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos field reporters’ questions at the State House on June 17, 2021. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island is working on a coronavirus vaccination incentive program to benefit charities, rather than individuals, Gov. Daniel McKee said Thursday.

While some states, including neighboring Massachusetts, are offering a chance to win $1 million lottery prizes and college scholarships to people who get vaccinated, McKee said he would rather more than a handful of people benefit.

“Would you rather give $1 million to one person or spread $1 million out over thousands of people and to help them? And we know that many of the charities have suffered a great deal,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference. “I think the idea is to help as many people as we can.”

McKee said under his plan, charities would receive money when the state reaches certain vaccination rate milestones, such as 75%, 80%, 85% and 90%. The total budget for the incentive program would be about $1 million, he said.

As of Thursday, almost 607,000 people in the state, or about 56% of the total population, have been fully vaccinated, according to state Department of Health data. About 75% of residents 18 and over are at least partially vaccinated, McKee said.

Also, the state on Friday is lifting some of its last remaining pandemic-related capacity restrictions on higher-risk settings and activities including nightclubs and live performances.

State officials are also looking at revising some travel restrictions, McKee said. Visitors entering Rhode Island from 11 states are still subject to quarantine under certain conditions.

The State House, currently open to the public on a limited basis, is expected to fully reopen on July 1, the governor said.

The Department of Health on Friday reported 26 new confirmed coronavirus cases, one death and a daily positivity rate of 0.4% from the previous day.