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Rhode Island investigates whether hospital officials jumped line for vaccine

Providence -- Rhode Island's attorney general asked the state's two biggest hospital groups to explain their coronavirus vaccine distribution policies in light of reports that some board members, trustees and administrative staff have been receiving inoculations.

“Rhode Islanders need to have confidence that vaccine prioritization is guided by a public health rationale alone and that vaccines are going to those who need them most, and not those who are well-connected or better able to navigate the system,” Attorney General Peter Neronha wrote in a letter Monday to the CEOs of Lifespan and Care New England.

Some people received the vaccine “despite the fact that they do not appear to fall within the Phase 1 category of individuals designated to receive the vaccine by the Rhode Island Department of Health," he said.

Both organizations have defended their vaccine distribution and promised to cooperate with the inquiry, which is not alleging wrongdoing.

Lifespan “will participate in the attorney general’s office review of our vaccination distribution strategy to health care workers and our efforts to support the recommendations of" the state health department, spokesperson Kathleen Hart said in an email.

“We are happy to explain in detail our methodology, to include our continued and complete transparency regarding how the process of administering, handling and recording aligns with the guidance provided,” Care New England spokesperson Jessica McCarthy said.

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POSITIVE TRENDS

Several key metrics officials have been using to measure the effects of the pandemic have been on the decline, including hospital admissions and the percent of weekly positive tests, according to state Department of Health data released Tuesday.

The department releases the weekly numbers every Tuesday.

The department also announced more than 640 new confirmed cases of the disease and 16 more deaths, for totals of more than 112,000 known cases and 2,126 fatalities since the pandemic started.

The number of patients in the state's hospitals with COVID-19 dropped to about 345, as of Sunday, the latest day for which the information was available, down from more than 360 the previous day.

Rhode Island's seven-day average positivity rate has now fallen to about 3.9% over the past two weeks, while the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has dropped to more than 720 in two weeks, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

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MUSIC EDUCATION

A music education advocacy group is pressing state officials to allow more in-person music practices and performances in all schools.

The Rhode Island Music Education Association says while student-athletes are allowed to practice and compete, many bands and choruses are not.

“You know it’s time to give that same attention to our musicians,” David Neves, the advocacy chair for the association told WPRI-TV. “For our student-musicians, this is their sport for many of them, and this is their connection with school.”

The state’s coronavirus guidance on music in schools has not changed since June.

In the spring, there were over 25,000 students singing and playing instruments every week, but that has dropped to 7,000, Neves said.

The state Department of Health said it is reviewing the association's request.

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