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R.I. COVID-19 Roundup: Pfizer to test new vaccine in Ocean State, as Mayor Elorza limits gatherings to five in Providence

Colleges and universities across the Ocean State adjust plans for Thanksgiving break

By
University News Editor
Tuesday, November 17, 2020

As Rhode Island continues to report record rates of positive COVID-19 tests, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza signed an executive order limiting social gatherings to five people. Additionally, Pfizer is set to test its new COVID-19 vaccine in Rhode Island. Meanwhile, several colleges and universities across the state have adjusted their plans for students returning home for Thanksgiving break as the virus spreads.

Elorza caps social gatherings to five 

Mayor Elorza announced Tuesday an executive order limiting the number of people allowed at social gatherings in Providence to a maximum of five, according to a press release on the city’s official website. The order will go into effect Sunday.

The gathering limit has been reduced from the previous cap of 10 people, which had been put into effect Oct. 30. The restriction on social gatherings statewide remains 10, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).

RIDOH reports that Providence recorded a rate of 449 positive cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents citywide in the first week of November, compared to the state’s infection rate of 331 per 100,000.

During a news conference over Zoom Tuesday afternoon, Elorza also put a new limit on catered events — down from 25 to 10 people indoors and 75 to 25 outdoors — but did not order restaurants to cease all in-person dining, as Central Falls, Rhode Island did Monday.

R.I. chosen as one of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution testing grounds

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced Monday that Rhode Island will be among the four states selected to participate in the company’s pilot immunization program for its new COVID-19 vaccine. Along with Texas, New Mexico and Tennessee, the Ocean State will work with the company to “help refine the plan for the delivery and deployment of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” according to a Pfizer press release Monday.

The four states were selected because of their size differences, their diverse populations, their existing immunization infrastructure and their mixed urban and rural environments, according to the press release.

But the company stressed that this does not mean these four states’ populations will receive vaccine doses earlier than other states. The pilot program will simply be used to learn how the distribution system should be “adapted for usage across other states to help them create effective immunization programs,” according to the press release.

R.I. Governor Gina Raimondo announced at a briefing last Thursday that she hopes doses of the vaccine will be available before the end of the year for limited “high-risk groups” including healthcare workers, people with two or more underlying health conditions, nursing home residents and those with severely compromised immune systems.

Providence College switches to online-only courses four days early 

Providence College announced Nov. 12 that in light of surging COVID-19 cases, all courses were to go fully virtual as of Nov. 16. This marks a shift from PC’s original plan to go all-online starting Nov. 20 in anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday, when many students will leave campus.

Other colleges and universities around the state have not made significant changes to their pandemic plans.

Rhode Island College President Frank Sanchez announced Tuesday that except for those approved specifically by the provost, all courses will be held virtually until the end of the fall term, according to the RIC website.

The University of Rhode Island, which continues to report an infection rate of around 1 percent, encouraged its students Nov. 12 to “know before you go” by getting tested before going home for Thanksgiving, according to the university’s website.

Brown also announced Nov. 17 that it will move its activity status back to Level 1, forcing all courses back online until Thanksgiving break, the Herald previously reported.

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