More than 65,000 people have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccination, since the state began administering them late last year. State health department director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott announced Thursday that the state is now administering more than 6,000 doses of the vaccine per day. 

“When you look at the last seven days, our vaccine administration rate has increased by 130% compared to what we were doing in January,” Alexander-Scott said. 

Alexander-Scott added Rhode Island could receive about 9000 doses of the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine by mid-March, if it’s approved as expected in the coming weeks.

This week, the state opened vaccination appointments to those 65 and older at state-run clinics. Rhode Island was also awarded a nearly $65-million grant from the Federal Emergency Management agency to aid in vaccine distribution. 

The Middletown site will be located along West Main Road, “where the old Benny’s used to be,” Alexander-Scott said. “True Rhode Island-style location.”

The Woonsocket site will be located on the corner of Mendon and Diamond Hill roads. Residents will be able to register for vaccinations at those sites using the state’s vaccination web portal or by calling 844-930-1779.

On Thursday, the state health department reported 387 new COVID-19 cases and ten new fatalities, bringing the state total to 2,496. 

Alexander-Scott noted that the percent positive rate for this past Wednesday dipped below two percent, and Rhode Island’s hospitalization numbers continue to decline. 

“Our decreases in hospitalizations are being driven by even greater decreases in the groups we focused on for the first portion of our targeted vaccination campaign, such as nursing home residents, and health care workers,” Alexander-Scott said. 

Lt. Governor Daniel McKee said he is working on a vaccination plan specifically for educators, which he plans to roll out once he assumes the role of governor. 

“We’ll have a plan, once I am governor, to make sure that the teachers and the childcare people who are working with young people, that we need to activate, as long as all the school personnel,” said McKee, who was present at the press conference, Thursday. 

The state’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association of Rhode Island quickly applauded the statement. The group is pushing for educators to be included in priority groups for the vaccine. 

McKee said it remains too early to set any specific state-wide start date for schools to reopen for in-person learning.

Rhode Island student-athletes can return to training and competition for football and lacrosse. Those are two sports, deemed high-risk, but played outside, for which state restrictions will be loosened. 

Football will be played this spring, in what the interscholastic league has called “fall two.” 

“To be clear these sports are being played with COVID-19 modifications,” said Janet Coit, director of the state Department of Environmental Management. “So while we’re able to open up more opportunities, athletes will be playing with masks, with sanitized equipment, with other measures.”  

Additionally, out-of-state teams will be allowed to compete in Rhode Island for moderate and low-risk sports, as long as they follow travel guidelines, and arrive from states with a percent positivity rate below five percent.

Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor announced plans to loosen restrictions for formal events in the months ahead. Pryor said he expects to lift the cap on attendees for events and weddings to one hundred people for indoor gatherings, and 150 for outdoor by April. 

“We're tracking the public health data so, if these new strains become predominant, or there are other troubling trends, we may have to make revisions here,” Pryor said.