EDITORIAL: RI Department of Health COVID Management Failure

Tuesday, August 17, 2021


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RI Department of Health’s Cannon Building

According to the RI Department of Health’s mission, the agency’s purpose is “to prevent disease and protect and promote the health and safety of the people of Rhode Island.”

Let’s unpack its management of the pandemic.

As of today, comparatively more Rhode Islanders have become infected from the coronavirus than the residents in any other state.


Per capita, Rhode Island ranks fifth in America for deaths. Apples to apples, Rhode Island ranks as the worst for managing the health impacts of the virus.

Rhode Island is the only state to be in the top five for both categories — infections and deaths per capita.

During the past 18 months, numerous mistakes were made that lead to unnecessary illness and death.

Because of failed policies, lockdowns and closures were implemented late causing more health and economic damage.

As a policy, the Rhode Island Department of Health under Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott made the decision to return those who had been infected and hospitalized back to their nursing homes despite there being clear evidence that this would spread the disease to the most vulnerable populations.

Data from the first American outbreaks in the state of Washington at a nursing home facility and from China clearly indicated that RI’s program was was fully flawed — truly flawed.

Then in the fall of 2020, it was clear that cases and spread were exploding and yet Alexander-Scott repeatedly stood up at press conferences with then-Governor Gina Raimondo and green-lighted Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even Black Friday shopping. The Department of Health ignored the science and endorsed policies that made Rhode Island the most infected place in the world and 1,000 additional Rhode Islanders died — hundreds of which could have been avoided. SEE THE GOLOCAL FILM

A GoLocal investigation in January unveiled that the vaccination plan submitted by the RI Department of Health to the CDC was deeply flawed:

“Incorrect information, an outdated plan, and thousands of doses of vaccines sitting on shelves are just a few of the problems plaguing Rhode Island’s vaccination rollout…The problem is the state’s plan has major errors and has not been updated.

The 53-page document submitted to the federal government outlines that one of Rhode Island’s priorities is to immunize children. The document formally submitted to the CDC states, “Rhode Island will nonetheless prioritize the following critical populations for vaccination:  Young adults, children….”

Just one problem — neither of the two vaccines now approved for usage by the FDA and the CDC were approved for use by children.

Moreover, as early as March when Moderna and then Pfizer announced for Phase 1 trials of their respective vaccines that they never intended to seek approval by federal agencies for use by children.

But seven months after the two pharmacy giants announced their drug trials, RIDOH officials were either confused or were unaware of the two vaccines’ intended usage.

In December, January and February, the Department of Health ran the strategy and oversaw the implementation of the vaccination program, and Rhode Island ranked at the bottom in the U.S. for percentage of the population vaccinated and of doses received and utilized.

Then-Lt. Governor Dan McKee said, “Like most Rhode Islanders, I am not satisfied with the current administration’s [Raimondo] progress on vaccine distribution, especially as we see our neighbors in Connecticut ranked among the top in the nation.” 

As Governor, McKee stripped the management of the vaccination program out of the Department of Health and created a separate vaccination management structure.  Now, RI ranks consistently in the top ten for vaccinations.

Today, there are spiraling infections — a transmission rate of 163 cases per 100,000 and moving quicking upwards (the state’s action level is 100 cases per 100,000). McKee says he is listening to guidance from the Department of Health for his health expertise.

McKee’s refusal to require masking in schools is just the latest flawed policy being guided by the Health Department. The McKee and the Health Department’s strategy is in direct conflict with the guidance of the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the American Academic of Pediatrics, to name just a few.

Alexander-Scott is directing a policy that will continue to fuel the spread and the disease’s devastating impacts.

As Rhode Island’s cases continue upward, the Governor should take a look at the numbers.

The numbers are clear, Rhode Island’s Department of Health has been the most inept at managing the virus in the United States. 



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