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Monday, April 5, 2021

Reopening Rhode Island now could set us back for weeks

Top docs blast McKee for putting his small business fetish over public health

By Will Collette

By Nick Anderson
Cathy and I have just gotten our second and final Pfizer COVID vaccinations at the state mass vaccination site in Cranston. 

Run by the RI National Guard, the process at the site was fast, efficient and friendly. We told each Guard member we saw how much we appreciated their service.

Personally, it felt like a great weight had been lifted off our shoulders. Also, going to a site run by the Guards improved my posture since I felt like I should stand at attention.

As vaccinations ramp up, you can feel a sense of optimism returning to the country along with an impatience to “get back to normal” as if there is such a thing.

Governors from Texas to Rhode Island are jumping on that optimism to re-open schools, businesses and venues with the predictable result of causing a rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths because we’re doing it too frigging early.

In early February, I predicted Dan McGee would re-open everything he could as soon as he took over the Governorship from Gina Raimondo and that’s exactly what he’s been doing, to the detriment of all. See the numbers HERE.

When will idiots like McKee learn the lesson that the only way to get the economy back on track is to beat the pandemic? Many customers are not going to visit his precious small businesses until they feel it is safe to do so.

As former RI Health director Dr. Michael Fine put it

"I didn’t think we should reduce restrictions to begin with.  I think that was an error, and now we’re seeing the product of that error. We need to clamp down if we’re going to save lives and prevent hospitalizations. We have to work harder than we’re working.”

Simply declaring that all businesses are open – as the Governors of Texas, Florida and Mississippi did – may bring out people who don’t know how science works or don’t care, but that will just mean a rise in cases. People with more sense are not going to listen to fools like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

One of RI’s top COVID experts, Brown’s Dr. Megan Ranney commented: 

“We have been through this movie before and it boggles my mind that Governors across the country are unwilling to hold on just a little bit longer in order to protect people.”

It is so frustrating to see political leaders demonstrate so little ability to learn from what we have all endured over the past year. Death, suffering and a trashed economy and all some politicians see is the need to re-open restaurants, bars, gyms and sports venues even though that will only worsen our economy by keeping people scared for their lives.

This is where the re-opening process stands at the moment:

Some COVID experts note that if we went in the other direction and imposed a short-term but strict lock-down, say for a month, while ramping up vaccinations, we can stop COVID in its tracks and by summer, we could be one of the safest states in the country.

Rhode Island was slow to get its vaccination program started and has fallen behind our neighboring states in expanding the pool of eligible people. But with new mass vaccination sites including a South County site at Schneider Electric on Fairgrounds Road in West Kingston, we are beginning to make some headway. 

As of this writing, Health Department stats show 254,413 Rhode Islanders have been fully vaccinated (including Cathy and me) or just 25% of RI’s population. 

Charlestown ranks #11 out of the 39 RI cities and towns for residences with at least one dose of the vaccine - 42.3% of the adult population. 

But again, McKee is jumping the gun and is now bragging that Rhode Island will reach his version of “herd immunity” of 70% by mid-May.

You might ask "70% of what?"

McKee is talking about “partial vaccination” (i.e. one shot out of two) for those who are eligible, which is at most 82% of the public and excludes kids. That works out to just over half the RI adult population (57%) who have been half-vaccine protected.

Then McKee might lift all restrictions and rescind the executive emergency order.


Not surprisingly, Dr. Anthony Fauci’s views on herd immunity differ from McKee’s. Fauci’s estimates the percentage for herd immunity to kick in is at least 70% but closer to 85% being fully vaccinated and, critically, must include everybody, including children.

Because COVID has been mutating into variants that are more contagious, it’s vital that we end the pandemic before COVID mutates into vaccine-resistant variants. When that happens, we will be in a whole new world of hurt.

To be clear, even being “fully vaccinated” does not make you totally immune. So far, the Pfizer vaccine has been working at around 91% efficacy which is wonderful. But it still means you have a ten to one shot of getting infected if you encounter some maskless Covidiot who is carrying the virus.

There are still lots of people who either won’t get vaccinated or are hesitating. Polling shows that the largest pool of these people is Republican men. The Providence Journal just published an article about a survey they sent to Republicans in the General Assembly.

Most of the House and Senate Republicans – including Charlestown’s Senator Elaine Morgan and wingnut state Rep. Justin Price – gave no reply.

Charlestown’s other state Senator Dennis Algiere responded that he has been vaccinated.

Media hound Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi couldn’t resist getting his name in one more article so he sent the ProJo this reply: "Respectfully, I won’t respond to any query that seeks details on such personal and private medical decisions." 

Flip has a strong anti-vaxxer history, campaigning against schools giving students the highly effective HPV vaccine that prevents several varieties of cancer.

Interestingly, one of the few other Republicans to respond to the ProJo survey was Flip’s political mentor, Rep. Patricia Morgan (R-West Warwick), who sent an e-mail to the ProJo saying she was fully vaccinated: "Because of my age [70] and because I interact with the public in the course of my duties, I believe it was the prudent choice."

And indeed it was.