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CORONAVIRUS

R.I.’s COVID-19 rates trending down, but officials ask for patience on vaccines

The state expects that the vaccine will be available to all residents over the age of 75 by the middle of February

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott speaks to the media on Jan. 21.
Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott speaks to the media on Jan. 21.Kris Craig/Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE — The state recorded its lowest daily COVID-19 test-positive rate in nearly three months on Wednesday, dropping to 3.5 percent for the first time since before Halloween.

There were still 698 new cases and 18 new deaths were reported, bringing the total number fatalities to 2,076 since last March. But Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said the state appears to be moving in the right direction.

“After we saw a peak in early December, our percent positivity and hospitalization numbers have all generally been decreasing slowly and steadily,” Alexander-Scott said during the department’s weekly press conference.

Wednesday’s press conference was the first time Governor Gina Raimondo did not make an appearance. Raimondo announced last week that Alexander-Scott would lead the weekly event as the governor prepares to step down and join President Joe Biden’s administration in the coming weeks.

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Alexander-Scott said 379 residents are currently hospitalized, which is down from the state’s record-high of 514 on Dec. 15. The average number of new daily hospitalizations was 55 over the last 10 days.

While the new numbers are promising, Alexander-Scott warned that “COVID-19 is not going away tomorrow.”

“We do have the tools to be able to handle it,” she said. “We are all going to need to continue taking measures to prevent the spread of this virus even after we have been vaccinated.”

The latest vaccine numbers show that 50,637 residents have received the first dose of the vaccine, and 12,515 residents have been fully vaccinated. The state continues to receive 14,000 doses a week, which is enough for about 1.5 percent of the population.

“We are not getting a lot of vaccine here in Rhode Island,” said Dr. Philip A. Chan, an infectious disease specialist affiliated with several Rhode Island hospitals.

Chan said the state already offers the vaccine in nursing homes and is beginning to administer doses in assisted-living facilities this week. The state expects that the vaccine will be available to all residents over the age of 75 by the middle of February.

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“Moving forward, our vaccination campaign will be focused on protecting Rhode Islanders who are most vulnerable to severe illness with COVID-19,” Chan said. “We are asking everyone for their patience just a little bit longer. We promise there will be vaccine for every person in Rhode Island who wants one in the future.”


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.