McKee stops short of mandating masks in Rhode Island schools

Says data is favorable, will allow districts to make decision as of now

By Mike Rego
Posted 7/29/21

PROVIDENCE — Governor Dan McKee, following up on updated recommendations made earlier this week by the Centers of Disease Control as the “Delta” variant of the coronavirus has …

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McKee stops short of mandating masks in Rhode Island schools

Says data is favorable, will allow districts to make decision as of now

Posted

PROVIDENCE — Governor Dan McKee, upon updated recommendations made earlier last week by the Centers of Disease Control as the “Delta” variant of the coronavirus has rapidly spread throughout the country, is backing a suggestion from federal officials that all school staff and students to wear masks when the 2021-22 term starts in a few weeks.

While the governor said he encouraged “strongly” school pupils and personnel wear masks, he stopped short of issuing a full mandate. Instead, he said it should up to the respective school committees and district administrative to make that call.

In his weekly press conference held July 27 and in interviews the next day, Gov. McKee noted the “Delta variant is what’s on everybody’s minds.” He said his administration, working in concert with the Rhode Island Department of Health, continues to monitor the situation as the state’s infection rate has increased in recent days.

“Our data does not show a reason to pull an alarm without a fire,” Gov. McKee explained. “Right now I feel very comfortable with the data we have, with our hospitalization rates, that we don’t want to be in a spot where we take a step backwards.

Again, though, he declined to issue any specific guidance for Rhode Island, deciding to accept the CDC recommendations at the moment.

“Safety is the No. 1 priority and we will makes our decisions based on the overall health and safety of the people who live in our state,” the governor said, adding he did not want to disrupt businesses or the economic recovery with any revived mandates.

According to the governor’s office, over 60 percent of Rhode Islanders have received two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Of the recent uptick in cases, Gov. McKee said, the “overwhelming majority are the unvaccinated…The people who are getting infect and hospitalized are those individuals who have chosen not to get vaccinated.”

A total of 18 patients of the roughly two dozen people hospitalized as of the end of last week, the governor said, had not been inoculated.

As for preparations to open school at the end of August in most districts, Gov. McKee said, “It’s time to double down on vaccination efforts,” especially in high school and middle school age students in the state. He said his office will soon announce a plan to prioritize offering vaccine state-wide to those age groups.

RIDOH released updated figures earlier this week, comprising data from last weekend. A total of 451 cases of COVID-19 were reported for the three-day period, putting the state in the “high” transmission category. However, hospitalizations fell from 31 to 27 and there were no deaths to date from those who had the most severe symptoms.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.