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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Gina’s gone, Dan’s now in charge and COVID is still here

McKee begins term as Governor by being stupid

By Will Collette

As soon as Gina Raimondo got her Senate confirmation to be Joe Biden’s Commerce Secretary and resigned, Dan “Mr. Excitement” McKee was sworn in as Governor.

I had predicted that one of McKee’s first official acts would be to roll back COVID restrictions so he can help his new obsession, small business.

Sure enough, on his first day, McKee ordered the following changes:

Restaurants: Capacity increased from 50 percent to 66 percent (The limit in place ahead of Rhode Island's "pause" at the end of 2020).

Gyms and workout facilities:  Capacity rules raised from one person per 125 square feet to one person per 100 square feet; no capacity restrictions on outdoor group workouts as long as masks are worn and 6 foot distancing is implemented.

Funeral homes: Capacity limit raised from 15 people indoors or 25 outside to 30 and 50, respectively.

He’s doing this against CDC guidelines. He’s doing this even though Rhode Island has had one of the worst COVID records in the country, especially after Gina Raimondo knew she was going to be leaving for Washington.

For the sake of an indoor cheeseburger, Rhode Islanders are going to die.

I’m sure McKee is probably considering a move to “Full Texas” and lifting all pandemic restrictions. Among of his small array of interests, he seems to only care about small business and charter schools.

In the ranking of states, the worst category to be in is “active outbreak.” Rhode Island is one of only seven states in that category. Former RI Health Department Director Dr. Michael Fine says this will likely cause another wave of COVID infections in the state.

We’re doing so badly that the New York Times chose us for a feature story (HERE) on how a state can go from beating the virus to losing to it. In just a few months, Rhode Island's COVID-fighting program went from champion to chump.

Look, Rhode Island’s numbers have been trending in the right direction, like the rest of the country. That’s because, after half a million dead, people sentient people realize COVID-19 is serious, even if Trumplicans don’t.

Despite all the encouraging news on the vaccine front – now three approved vaccines, ramped up production and improved distribution – we are NOT anywhere near herd immunity when we can safely stand down. We are still ranked near the bottom among the states in just about every COVID-fighting category.

Consider these facts.

New infections in Rhode Island have dropped from their December and January peak of nearly 2,000 a day to 300-400 a day. That’s great, but we are roughly at the same level we were at last March and April when we suffered the first COVID wave.

The number of people in the hospital has dropped to roughly the same level as early April last year.

The current death toll for Rhode Island is 2,541. The RI Health Department says that COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in 2020.

We’ve had almost 500 confirmed cases in Charlestown.

I’m really looking forward to the time when we can safely go back to our favorite restaurants. Makes my mouth water just to think about it. And to visiting with family we haven’t seen in a year.

But we have to be smart and be patient.

Sign up for your vaccine shots as soon as you are eligible. Mask up. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. We’re almost there.

To paraphrase John Kerry’s famous question, “Who wants to be the last person to die in a pandemic?”