Asst. News Editor
On February 16, Rhode Island identified the first case of the new Coronavirus variant from the United Kingdom. Three Rhode Island residents tested positive for the the U.K. variant, labeled as B.1.1.7.
Researchers have asserted that this new variant is expected to become the prominent strain of the coronavirus in the United States in the coming weeks. Scientists in the U.K. have also claimed that the B.1.1.7 is more contagious and potentially more deadly than other strains of the virus.
Individuals diagnosed with strain of the virus range between ages twenty and sixty, as reported by Joseph Wendelken, spokesperson for the R.I. Health Department. Scientists believe this strain of the virus is about 5% of COVID-19 cases throughout the country.
Massachusetts reported their first case of the U.K. variant of the virus on January 17, and had identified upwards of 30 cases by the end of January. Bristol County, located in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the only county in the state to have no reported cases of this specific variant.
Out of every state in the nation, Rhode Island is among the slowest in vaccination distribution. Last week, the Department of Health decreased the age for people eligible to receive the vaccine from 75+ to anyone who is 65 or older. In addition, CVS announced that it would be adding three more vaccine locations in Rhode Island.
Rhode Islanders who meet the age requirements are also encouraged to take advantage of state run clinics in Cranston and Providence. For more information or to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine Rhode Islanders can go to vaccinateri.org or call (844) 930-1779.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, encourages all high-risk individuals to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Jha wrote on Twitter, “We’ll still lose thousands more Americans and variants still loom, but if we vaccinate quickly and hold tight on policy, [the] horrible days of sustained 2000-3000 daily deaths could be behind us.
COVID-19 cases throughout the state have decreased from a positive rate of 2.8% last week to 2.2%. Hospital admissions dropped from 250 last week to 174, and on average Rhode Island has reported 332 positive cases this week down from 354 the week before.
Approximately 160,090 people in Rhode Island have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 65,461 have received both doses.