Teens next up for vaccine


The next phase in the rollout of the coronavirus vaccination in Rhode Island will target teenagers and college students.

Police Chief Ed Mello, who serves as local director for the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, said the focus is on vaccinating this demographic during school or immediately following the final bell. His team was assisting nurses at Narragansett High School during a clinic yesterday and will do the same tomorrow at North Kingstown High School. Because they are using the Pfizer vaccine, Mello will have to dispatch his team again in three weeks to help administer the second shot.

“Now that vaccine eligibility is open to all people 16 and older who live, work or go to school in Rhode Island, it’s important that we get our young people who live in congregate settings vaccinated,” Gov. Dan McKee said. “We’re working with our colleges and universities to get as many shots in arms as possible before students recess for the summer.”

Nine institutions of higher learning in Rhode Island have collaborated with public health officials to develop vaccination plans. For example, Community College of Rhode Island has installed onsite clinics at its Lincoln, Warwick, Providence, and Newport campuses, Brown University is providing shuttles to the mass vaccination site at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, and the University of Rhode Island is transporting students to clinics across the state with free ice cream as an incentive.

“Our goal is to get at least one dose of vaccine into the arm of every college student in Rhode Island before the end of the semester, and to ensure that all of these students get their second doses in the weeks that follow,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.

Nearly 400,000 residents of Rhode Island are fully vaccinated from a population of 1.06 million, and another 150,000 people are awaiting their second shot. Because more than half of Rhode Island is in the midst of being vaccinated, McKee is scheduled to loosen restrictions tomorrow. That includes cutting the guidelines for social distancing in half from 6 feet to 3 feet. Indoor dining is allowed to expand to 80 percent capacity, and people are allowed to sit at the bar. Catered events are allowed to operate at 80 percent capacity with up to 200 people indoors, 500 outdoors, with standing bar service and cocktail hours allowed only outside. Assembly venues, like concert halls and basketball arenas, are capped at 80 percent capacity indoors, with no outdoor guidelines. Events with more than 2,500 people, however, need approval from the Department of Business Regulations. The limit on social gatherings is 25 people indoors, 75 people outdoors.

Churches, retail stores, gyms, bowling alleys, cinemas, barbershops, beauty parlors, nail salons, funeral homes, tattoo parlors, and offices are allowed to operate at 80 percent capacity. If all goes according to plan, these establishments will be able to expand to full capacity May 28.

That also is when there will be no limit on social gatherings and out-of-state sports teams will be able to play tournaments in Rhode Island.

Alexander-Scott stressed that the lifted restrictions rely on Rhode Islanders continuing to get vaccinated. She also said outdoor options for dining and other events is preferred throughout the summer.