- Associated Press - Monday, December 28, 2020

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - An effort to administer the coronavirus vaccine to about 7,500 residents and 10,000 workers at nursing homes across Rhode Island started Monday.

It may take several weeks before everyone eligible receives their first dose of the vaccine, being administered by CVS and Walgreens pharmacies in conjunction with state health officials, authorities said.

The effort will start in long-term care facilities in some of the state’s hardest-hit communities.

More than half the facilities in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls will get the vaccine in the first week, state Health Department spokesman Joseph Wendelken said Sunday. About 1,500 first doses will be administered Monday, he said. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses.

About 70% of Rhode Island’s more than 1,700 coronavirus deaths were in residents of nursing homes or assisted living centers, according to state statistics.



“I’m glad we can begin protecting staff and residents. The sooner we can start, the more lives we will save,” said Scott Fraser, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Healthcare Association, which represents 64 nursing homes.

Rhode Island hospital workers started getting the vaccine before Christmas.

Inmates and workers in the state prison also started receiving the vaccine over the weekend, a Department of Corrections spokesperson said. One employee and two inmates who contracted COVID-19 have died.

As of Dec. 17, there have been almost 1,100 confirmed cases of the coronavirus at the Adult Correctional Institutions, with almost 400 in the maximum security unit.

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HIGH COURT BAIL CONDITIONS

The Rhode Island Supreme Court on Monday rejected a proposal to reduce the number of pretrial criminal defendants held behind bars to alleviate the risk of spreading the coronavirus, saying the prison system has already taken appropriate steps to keep nonviolent offenders out of jail during the pandemic.

The order was in response to a Dec. 17 petition from the Rhode Island Public Defender, which asked that judges hold nonviolent defendants on bail only in “extraordinary circumstances.”

The attorney general’s office argued that prosecutors already consider health risks when it asks the court to hold a defendant.

“It is not at all clear to this court how a modification of the bail guidelines would significantly reduce the population awaiting trial,” the high court said in its decision.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

Rhode Island had more than 3,500 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 38 virus-related deaths in the past five days, the state Department of Health reported Monday.

The positivity rate over the five-day holiday period was slightly less than 6%.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island has now decreased from 7.95% on Dec. 13 to 5.94% on Sunday.

State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

There have now been more than 85,600 confirmed cases and 1,742 deaths in Rhode Island.

The state on Monday also added that almost 12,000 residents had received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

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