PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island on Wednesday started taking appointments for eligible residents age 75 and older to get a coronavirus vaccine at one of two mass vaccination sites scheduled to open this week.

The state-run sites at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence and the former Citizens Bank headquarters in Cranston are scheduled to open Thursday, state Department of Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said.

The state also announced that starting Monday, residents age 65 and older can make an appointment.

Residents can book an appointment either online or by phone in English or Spanish and are available at first on a first-come, first-served basis. No walkups will be accepted.

Due to limited vaccine supply, appointment time slots are expected to fill quickly, the health department said in a statement.

The Providence site will have an initial capacity to administer 500 shots per day, while the Cranston site will be able to give 900 daily shots at first.

Rhode Island’s vaccine rollout has come under fire and been consistently ranked as one of the slowest in the nation, but state officials have blamed a limited vaccine supply and the state’s targeted approach to first inoculate health care workers, and residents and workers at nursing homes.

That has led to a 46% decrease in hospitalizations in the state in the past month, compared to 32% nationally, the department said.

“With the success of Phase 1 in shoring up our health care system, and the ability for speed and scale in Phase 2, Rhode Island is well-positioned to stay ahead of COVID-19,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “Now, with a single website and phone number to sign up for appointments at any of our state-run sites, we’re taking our successful testing model and bringing it to this final frontier in our fight to end this pandemic.”

Vaccinations for eligible residents are also available at some retail pharmacy locations and local vaccination sites.

More than 113,000 people in Rhode Island have received a vaccine first dose, while more than 52,000 people have been fully vaccinated, according to state data released Wednesday.

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HOSPITAL VISITATIONS

Two Rhode Island hospitals are allowing patients to have visitors again.

Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence and Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in North Providence started welcoming visitors Wednesday, provided they adhere to regulations meant to stem the transmission of the coronavirus, according to parent organization CharterCare Health Partners.

Those include face coverings and social distancing.

Only one visitor per patient in a shared room and no more than two visitors in a private room will be allowed.

“This liberalization of visitor policies is based on the latest guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Health and will safely address the many requests of patients and their families," CharterCare CEO Jeffrey Liebman said in a statement.

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BY THE NUMBERS

Rhode Island has almost 400 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and eight more state residents have died after contracting the disease, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.

Of the new cases, 327 were in people who tested positive for the first time on Tuesday, while 41 tested positive for the first time on previous days.

There have now been nearly 122,500 confirmed cases and 2,352 fatalities in the state.

The number of patients in the hospital with the disease fell to 193 as of Monday, down from 200 the previous day.

The latest seven-day average positivity rate in Rhode Island is now 2.24%. 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.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has dropped from about 542 on Feb. 2 to nearly 377 on Tuesday, according to the project.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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