By Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2021

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The VA Providence Healthcare System has started giving COVID-19 vaccinations for veteran patients at the Providence VA Medical Center, authorities say.

John Kirby was the first non-employee veteran to receive a first dose of the vaccination on Wednesday.

“As vaccine supplies increase, our ultimate goal is to offer free COVID-19 vaccinations to all veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated,” system Director Lawrence Connell said in a statement.

VA Providence has a dedicated team that is actively contacting patients at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to schedule vaccination appointments, the agency said. Veterans can also call for an appointment.

The VA said even after receiving a vaccination, employees and veterans should continue wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing and washing their hands frequently.



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DEATH TOLL CLIMBS

The number of Rhode Islanders who have died after contracting the coronavirus has surpassed 1,900, according to state Department of Health data released Thursday.

With an additional 20 deaths, 1,910 residents have now died of COVID-19.

The state also reported more than 1,150 new confirmed cases of the disease and a daily positivity 6.1%

The latest seven-day average positivity rate in Rhode Island is now 7.13%. 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.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from almost 837 on Dec. 23 to more than 1,073 on Wednesday, according to the project.

The number of people hospitalized with the disease dropped to 397 as of Tuesday, the latest day for which the health department information was available - the first time it has dipped lower than 400 since Nov. 25.

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