PROVIDENCE – Gov. Daniel J. McKee on Tuesday urged Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated, repeating the refrain several times during his weekly press conference. However, the governor said he does not feel it’s the time to respond to an uptick in infections with policy changes.
McKee said about 250,000 Rhode Islanders remain unvaccinated, while the country is seeing an increase in cases due in part to the delta variant. He said the R.I. Department of Health reported that 18 out of 22 cases hospitalized this week were individuals who had not been vaccinated.
“That is why it’s crucial that Rhode Islanders get vaccinated,” he said. “The state is going to do what it can to get people vaccinated. That’s the ticket to safety. And safety is the top priority.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday announced new recommendations that vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
Rhode Island is at 79% of adults who have received a first vaccination shot, but the goal, McKee said, is to reach 90%.
“Now is the time to double down on vaccinations,” said McKee, noting that anyone in the state who wants to get vaccinated can do so.
At the same time, McKee said the data does not warrant a change in policy for instituting statewide precautionary safety measures, even though, he said, the variants should be taken seriously.
“Our data does not show a reason to pull an alarm,” said McKee.
McKee said he does not intend to implement a statewide mask mandate. “We’ve been successful without the mandates,” he said. “Although I will never say never.”
“Rhode Island is a national leader in reopening our economy,” added McKee. “We don’t want to back off of that.”
McKee said that outreach is needed to address members of the public who are resistant to being vaccinated. “It’s on the state to provide opportunities to people in different communities,” he said. “The state has to keep on stepping up.”
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Cassius Shuman is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Shuman@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @CassiusShuman.
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