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R.I. governor vaccinated; AG probes hospital vaccine distribution

PROVIDENCE (AP) — Rhode Island's attorney general is reviewing whether the state's largest hospital operators are properly distributing COVID vaccines.

The Providence Journal reports state Attorney General Peter Neronha's office has been in contact with the state Department of Health regarding the distribution of vaccines by Lifespan and Care New England.

Kristy dosReis, a spokesperson for Neronha, told the newspaper that the office intends to look into any improper distribution and determine whether legal violations occurred.

The Journal previously reported that board members and trustees at the two hospital groups have been offered vaccinations, even as elderly residents won't receive the vaccine until at least next month, under the state's vaccine distribution plan.

Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken told the Journal that hospitals have been instructed to vaccinate highest exposure healthcare workers first, as well as staff critical to the facility's operation, such as lab and IT workers and certain administrators.

But hospital operators around the country have expanded vaccine eligibility to all their employees, including top administrators, board members and people who work remotely.

Spokespersons for Lifespan, which operates Rhode Island Hospital in Providence and others, didn't comment Thursday.

But Raymond Powrie, executive chief of medicine for Care New England, which runs Women and Infants Hospital in Providence and others, said in statement that the organization offered the vaccine first to those with the closest contact with patients before expanding to support staff and now to volunteers and affiliated community practices.

A look at other coronavirus-related developments in Rhode Island:

GOVERNOR VACCINATED

Gov. Gina Raimondo has been vaccinated for COVID-19 as she prepares to join President Joe Biden's Cabinet as commerce secretary.

Her office confirmed the 49-year-old Providence resident received the first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine on Tuesday at the Sockanosset vaccination site in Cranston.

Spokesperson Audrey Lucas said the governor received the vaccine as part of a federal effort to vaccinate cabinet nominees and those in the presidential line of succession.

As commerce secretary, Raimondo would be 10th in line to become president in the event something happens to Biden, The Providence Journal reported.

Raimondo, who is set to testify at before the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday as part of the confirmation process, thanked scientists, researchers, public health officials and many others who helped develop and distribute the vaccine.

“This has been a long and difficult year, but the end is in sight,” she said in a statement.

VIRUS CASES

Rhode Island health officials on Thursday reported 18 deaths and more than 900 additional cases of COVID-19.

The state Department of Health also said there were 379 patients in Rhode Island hospitals with the virus.

Rhode Island has recorded 2,076 deaths and more than 108,000 known cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

The state is currently averaging about 770 new cases per day, down from an average of about 1,073 earlier this month, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Rhode Island's positivity rate is at around 4.7%, down from 7.1% earlier this month.

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