Good afternoon. I’m writing to let you know that an updated version of Rhode Island’s Immunization, Testing and Health Screening for Health Care Workers regulations was posted for public comment today. (You can access it here.) We will be taking public comment on these regulations until March 25th. These would be standing changes to the healthcare worker vaccination regulations, to replace the emergency regulations that were first promulgated on August 17, 2021 and updated on February 10, 2022.
These proposed regulations align the definition of “up to date” for COVID-19 vaccination with CDC guidance. Whereas the emergency regulations focused on the completion of a primary series, the proposed permanent regulations would include booster doses. Another change is that healthcare workers who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations would be required to wear a medical grade N95 mask when transmission rates in Rhode Island are substantial (50 cases or more per 100K people per week).
As a result of the emergency regulations, roughly 94% of Rhode Island’s healthcare workforce is vaccinated. Our vaccination rate increased by more than 10% in September, after RIDOH promulgated the emergency regulation. This was incredibly important to patient and resident safety, given that months later we were seeing individual days with 5,000 and 6,000 new cases. However, we are at a different point in this pandemic, with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all declining. As Governor McKee and Dr. McDonald shared yesterday, serious illness from COVID-19 is now becoming a preventable, treatable disease. We have the systems and tools in place to manage COVID-19 like we do other endemic diseases. The proposed regulation would continue to mitigate risk for the healthcare worker and help keep patients and residents safe.
Joseph Wendelken | Public Information Officer
Rhode Island Department of Health
3 Capitol Hill, Room 401; Providence, Rhode Island 02908