Rhode Island to introduce mobile app to show proof of vaccination

LINCOLN – After states like California, Colorado and New Jersey, Rhode Island will soon be offering an app so residents can easily prove their COVID vaccination status, Governor Dan McKee said on Wednesday.

Called 401 Health, the app will be downloadable for use on cellphones, tablets and other devices. According to Tom McCarthy, executive director of the state’s health department’s COVID response unit, the app is being tested and is expected to be available to the general public in about two weeks.

“We’ve been working for some time for the right national standard that will allow Rhode Islanders to travel nationally, internationally and be recognized as a group for their immunization status,” McCarthy said. The current paper immunization records issued by the CDC are impractical, he said.

The software is “a common platform that CVS, Walgreens, and many of our pharmacies use organization-wide and that many other states use as well,” said McCarthy. The app and platform, known as the SMART Health Card, will rely on information stored on portal.ri.gov. It will be voluntary and not mandatory, officials said at McKee’s coronavirus press conference Wednesday morning at Northern Lincoln Elementary School.

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According to McKee, it will still be up to individual companies to determine whether proof of vaccination is required for entry.

While several states have adopted what are sometimes called “vaccine passports,” others, including Florida, have banned or severely restricted their use. When signing a law in May to ban them, Gov. Ron DeSantis said, “In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected, and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your. decision”.

In further developments on Wednesday, McKee and Rhode Island Department of Health director Dr Nicole Alexander-Scott said the state was closely monitoring the spread of the omicron variant. No case has been detected in Rhode Island, Alexander-Scott said, but the CDC announced Wednesday afternoon that the country’s first case has been identified in California.

“The entire state COVID response team is monitoring the situation very closely, monitoring the omicron variant,” Alexander-Scott said. As with the delta variant, which now accounts for nearly all COVID cases in Rhode Island, the keys to protection if the latest variant gets here are vaccination, mask wear in most indoor environments, and regular testing, Alexander-Scott said.

The director also reported an increase in positive test results for all age groups in the period from the week before Halloween to the week ending Saturday, two days after Thanksgiving.

The jumps in the 5 to 9 age group – from a weekly rate of 220 cases per 100,000 population to 567 per 100,000 population – and in the 10 to 14 age group, from 164 cases were particularly striking. per 100,000 to 486 per 100,000. Rhode Island’s roughly 80,000 children aged 5 to 11 became eligible for vaccination during this time, and the latest data shows that 20,279, about 25%, received at least dose.

Expanded test-to-stay program

Meanwhile, McKee announced that the state’s test-to-stay program, which was tested about a month ago in Westerly, would be expanded to any other district interested in participating.

On test to stay, a student who has been exposed to a case of COVID-19 in class but remains asymptomatic can stay in class if they receive a negative rapid test in school for seven consecutive days.

McKee said that in Westerly, the program saved 315 days of school for children who were able to attend class rather than staying home and self-quarantining. Assistant Education Commissioner Anna Riley said no cases of COVID have been linked to children who were allowed to attend classes due to a test to stay.

The test to stay was also successfully started in Lincoln, according to the schools superintendent. Lawrence Filippelli, who said “we are excited about this because with the approval of the Ministry of Health we are able to keep our children in school”.

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Calls for more mask wear

McKee and Alexander-Scott have called on more Rhode Islanders to wear masks indoors, saying only 20% of state residents say they do so when not necessary.

But McKee said he had no plans to implement an indoor mask warrant.

The Department of Health on Wednesday reported three more coronavirus-related deaths and 978 additional cases of COVID-19, as well as 19,666 negative tests, for a positive rate of 4.7%. There were 169 hospitalized patients positive for COVID at the last count, up from 155 reported on Tuesday, including 19 in intensive care.

With reports from editor Michael McDermott.

COVID in numbers

IR cases: 192,741 (978 reported Wednesday)

Negative IR tests: 5,837,575 (19,666 reported Wednesday; positive rate of 4.7%)

COVID-related deaths at RI: 2,935 (3 reported Wednesday)

Rhode Islanders hospitalized with COVID: 169 (19 in intensive care)

Fully vaccinated in IR: 764 626 (853 044 at least partially vaccinated)

Mass Case: 919,097

Mass. COVID-related deaths: 19,404

US cases: 48,619,375

COVID-related deaths in the United States: 780,989

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This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Live Updates: McKee’s COVID Press Conference on Vaccine Passport

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