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CORONAVIRUS

R.I. to release a COVID-19 vaccine passport app

The app, called 401 Health, is based on the existing Crush COVID app and will include a QR code that can be scanned to confirm that the individual is fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccines rest on a table at Bucklin Park in Providence in August.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island plans to release a proof-of-vaccination passport program in the form of an app, staff members in the governor’s office told the Globe on Wednesday.

The app, called 401 Health, will include a QR code that can be scanned to confirm that the individual is fully vaccinated against the virus, according to Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the state health department.

“We are converting the Crush COVID app into a more comprehensive health app. Rather than a passport, it is more a Health Smart Card,” said Wendelken in an email to the Globe.

He said the app will allow users to store information such as their COVID-19 vaccination history or test results, similarly to the state-developed site portal.ri.gov. He said the app also will allow Rhode Island’s vaccination status to be recognized across the country.

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State officials said 401 Health will be released “in the next few weeks.”

On Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker confirmed that Massachusetts also will be rolling out a vaccine passport. He said he does not plan to make it a requirement for people to carry them to work, travel, or shop.

The issue of vaccine passports has divided many of Rhode Island’s elected officials throughout the past year.

“This policy is divisive & will further marginalize those with conscientious objections and create a class system that limits the freedoms, opportunities and movements of our friends and neighbors,” wrote Senator Jessica de la Cruz, a North Smithfield Republican, on Twitter Wednesday.

Representative David Place, a conservative Republican from Burrillville, introduced a bill in May that would prohibit vaccine passports in Rhode Island. The bill did not pass.

“There shouldn’t be a prerequisite to walk around or get on a RIPTA bus,” he told the Globe at the time. He said that the COVID-19 vaccine should not be mandatory to walk into a business, go to school, or go to work.

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It’s unclear how the Rhode Island passport app will be used, but Tom McCarthy, director of the state’s COVID-19 response said the the CDC vaccine card currently in use is “flimsy and not very convenient.”

“This will just be an option. It is not tied to any requirement,” said Wendelken.

Also Wednesday, Governor Dan McKee said the state’s test-to-stay pilot program, which was first rolled out in Westerly Public Schools in October, will soon begin in Lincoln. The pilot program will allow unvaccinated students to stay in school after an in-school COVID-19 exposure if they test negative for the virus to prevent unnecessary quarantining and keep students in school.

When asked why the program won’t be implemented in all school districts, McKee said it came down to “getting it right.”

“Now we have a good strategy,” he said, but did not answer questions about when other districts will be able to take advantage of the program.

McKee said only about 20 percent of Rhode Islanders continued to wear masks indoors, but encouraged all to wear one, even where it is not required.

Health director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott told the press Wednesday that the Omicron variant has not been identified in Rhode Island yet, but that the state is prepared.

“COVID-19 is still very much with us,” she said.


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.