PROVIDENCE — Governor Daniel J. McKee announced Tuesday that Rhode Island would be partnering with cities and towns on a plan to get first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to all K-12 teachers, school staff, and child-care workers by the end of March.
The announcement has been long awaited by teachers and school staff across Rhode Island, who were not previously prioritized in the state’s vaccine rollout. On March 2, President Biden called on states to prioritize educators and school staff as essential workers; the next day, CVS Health announced that teachers and school staff would be eligible for vaccinations in their retail pharmacies, which are part of a federal vaccine program. On Friday, Walgreens also listed educators as an eligible population in the state, though their Rhode Island locations are not part of the federal program.
“Getting our teachers, school staff, and child-care workers vaccinated is one of the best things we can do right now to support students, families, schools, and our economy,” said McKee. “Here in Rhode Island, we’ve heard President Biden’s directive, and his goal is our goal.”
Approximately 18,500 teachers, school staff, and child-care workers at centers and family child-care sites that are licensed by the Rhode Island Department of Human Services will be eligible for vaccines at existing city- and town-operated clinics throughout the state.
School staff includes administrators, teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff, clerical staff, custodial or maintenance staff, bus drivers, and bus monitors, according to the governor’s office.
Clinics will be open to teachers and staff from public, private, parochial, and independent schools, and many will start vaccinating on Friday and Saturday.
At some point this week, McKee said, municipal Emergency Management Agency directors will reach out to district superintendents, charter school leaders, nonpublic school leaders, and DHS licensees for child-care centers to share information about how they can get started to get vaccinated.
People will be vaccinated based on the community in which they work, not where they live.
Because of the high volume of staff and child-care workers in Providence, the city has established a designated clinic for Providence teachers, school staff, and licensed child-care workers at 335R Prairie Ave., which will be managed by the Partnership for Rhode Island and Lifespan.
Beginning Wednesday, those who are eligible can call (401) 444-8139 to schedule an appointment.
“Child care and in-person learning are essential services, and we should treat them that way,” said McKee.
McKee’s announcement is in line with his efforts to further reopen the state. He previously said that he was aiming to open businesses and have a plan for schools as early as March 14. On his first full day as governor, he signed an executive order to address vaccine hesitancy.
On Tuesday, AARP Rhode Island renewed their call for a transparent, centralized, statewide COVID-19 vaccination plan.
“Our first call for transparency was on January 8. Subsequently AARP, our members and thousands of other Rhode Islanders have sent letters and petitions to Governors Raimondo and McKee on age prioritization and a centralized system serving all distribution sites,” said AARP Rhode Island state director Kathleen Connell in a statement. “As of March 9, it’s been 61 days. Yet the state plan — such as it is — remains opaque, confusing and constantly changing.”
Also Tuesday, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza of Providence and Council President Sabina Matos announced that people age 50 and older may be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine if they live in certain parts of the city that have been hard-hit by the pandemic.
Providence residents ages 50 and older from neighborhoods comprised of ZIP codes 02904 and 02905 can immediately start booking appointments on the city’s vaccination portal VaccinatePVD.com. If residents cannot register online, they are asked to call the Mayor’s Center for City Services at 3-1-1 or (401) 421-2489, where residents are able to receive help in both English and Spanish.
Clinics managed by the Providence Emergency Management Agency will continue to be accessible to all Providence residents who are 65 and older, and now will also be available to those who are 50 and older and live in ZIP codes of 02904, 02905, 02907, 02908, and 02909.
Matos said that she was glad for the expansion, and said that the city needs to do everything it can to get as many people who are 50 and older vaccinated, especially those in multigenerational households and those in historically marginalized communities.
“I now hope that we can also work to address the issues of vaccinating residents with comorbidities and underlying health conditions,” said Matos.