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Raimondo: Unclear when I’ll be confirmed as Commerce secretary

The outgoing governor said Rhode Island is making “huge progress” on COVID-19 vaccinations

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo speaks at an event in Providence, R.I.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo speaks at an event in Providence, R.I.David Goldman/Associated Press

PROVIDENCE — Governor Gina Raimondo acknowledged Monday she doesn’t know when the US Senate will confirm her secretary of Commerce, but said she is doing everything she can to support the transition of power to Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee once she joins President Joe Biden’s administration.

Speaking to reporters at length for the first time in two months, Raimondo also said Rhode Island has also made “huge progress even in the past five days” with its COVID-19 vaccination program. The state has moved up 17 spots on the The New York Times’ list of percentage of population that has received at least one shot, after being near the bottom last week.

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Raimondo said the state has now distributed 203,000 doses of the vaccine — 61,944 residents have received both shots — and the large vaccination clinics that opened last week are giving hundreds of shots an hour.

Raimondo said the state’s decision to ramp up vaccinations was not a reaction to criticism last week, but was instead part of the original plan to focus vaccinating nursing home residents and health care workers first before moving to the general population. She said Rhode Island’s approach has led to a massive reduction in hospitalizations.

“This was always the plan,” Raimondo said. “We had a very deliberate plan informed by the experts.”

McKee said last week that he was “not satisfied with the current administration’s progress on vaccine distribution,” and then he skipped the weekly COVID-19 press conference held by the Department of Health. Raimondo said McKee has agreed to return to the press conference this week, but a spokesman for the transition said he didn’t have any details.

Raimondo said she and McKee spoke on Monday, and McKee recommitted to keeping Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott in her position after the governor resigns. She said the two also spoke about appointing a new director of the state Department of Labor and Training because Monday is current director Scott Jensen’s last day of work.

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