As part of Rhode Island's, comprehensive plan to transition the management of COVID-19 from a pandemic into an endemic strategy focused on more traditional models of prevention, treatment, and healthcare delivery, updates to the State's vaccination and testing sites are being planned.
These updates are aimed at making vaccination accessible and ensuring that the State's testing program is helping people at highest risk for serious illness get into treatment. Ensuring access to prevention tools and ensuring treatment for those at higher risk is a traditional public health model for responding to an endemic disease, which is a more predictable, manageable disease.
Rhode Island's COVID-19 cases have decreased by more than 95% since early January, and the state's new hospital admissions have decreased by 83% from mid-January to the end of February.
In alignment with the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rhode Island will shift the testing strategy at State-run COVID-19 testing sites on March 7th to focus on people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and people who are close contacts of someone who tested positive.
There is now an abundance of testing available in the community. People who are asymptomatic and aren't a close contact but want to be tested for COVID-19 can access testing through most pharmacies, clinics, and primary care providers throughout the state. (These same testing options should be used by people who need to be tested before travel.) Kits that you can use to test yourself for COVID-19 are also available through community organizations, local pharmacies, and online retailers.
Focusing testing efforts at Rhode Island's State-run testing sites on people who are symptomatic and people who are close contacts will ensure that people who are positive and eligible for treatment can be quickly connected to treatment. Treatment is one of the many reasons why we have seen such a drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
As part of a renewed effort to increase primary series and booster dose vaccination rates in communities where they are lower, the State is also coordinating a faith-based vaccination program. This effort involves a community of worship welcoming a physician to speak and answer questions during a service, and then hosting a vaccination clinic after that service.
Additionally, the State is planning an on-site vaccination clinic at schools in several communities where the student vaccination rate is below 20%. More than 40 clinics are currently scheduled. These clinics are follow-ups to the vaccination clinics the State organized at schools during the spring and fall of 2021.
Part of this renewed focus on community vaccination settings entails shifting away from larger, centralized vaccination venues. On Feb. 26, the Rhode Island Convention Center will cease offering vaccination appointments. Current conditions and the prevalence of vaccination sites across the State have reduced the need for mass vaccination sites.
The State has the capacity to quickly stand-up large vaccination sites and events, should the data on COVID-19 transmission indicate they are warranted.