CENTRAL FALLS, RI – A new uptick in cases of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 in several parts of the country is underscoring how far Rhode Island has come in the fight against the coronavirus, and the very real danger the unvaccinated still face.  While some Americans who have not yet been vaccinated may be hoping that the recent decline in COVID-19 cases will protect them, public health officials are sounding the alarm that progress could be reversible, the pandemic is not yet over, and the best way to protect yourself and others is to get the shot.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed is commending Rhode Islanders for stepping up and getting the COVID-19 vaccine shot.  But as the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is emerging with more frequency, the Senator says it is vital for even more Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated before the Delta-variant takes hold and leads to more infections.

On Monday at Progreso Latino in Central Falls, Senator Reed joined with Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera; Dr. Megan Ranney, Professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University; and Mario Bueno of Progreso Latino to discuss the Delta variant’s impact on Rhode Island and the importance of getting more people vaccinated.

Public health experts say it is critical to take preventive measures to stop large outbreaks, which can become a breeding ground for potentially more variants.

“Rhode Islanders have really stepped up and answered the call to protect themselves and others by getting the vaccine.  We are fifth in the country but we can do more. We want to make sure that we protect ourselves and our family and our friends against this disease.  We want to be proactive because inaction could allow the Delta variant to spread and stall so-called herd immunity.  Let’s not squander the summer months, let’s get as many people protected now and prevent the Delta variant from rolling back hard fought progress,” said Senator Reed.  “It is important to educate people about the safety, effectiveness, and availability of the vaccine.  And organizations like Progreso Latino are conducting vital outreach to ensure vulnerable populations have all the facts and access to free and convenient vaccination clinics in their neighborhoods.”

“Progreso Latino, Inc. has been very engaged in working with the community throughout the pandemic to address basic needs and especially help those with limited English fluency to obtain help.  We are very concerned about the implications that the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus represent for the community and ask those that have not vaccinated to avail themselves of free vaccinations through their doctor or via one of the pharmacy chains in their community.  By vaccinating we are protecting our loved ones and our community from further spread and saving lives.  Feel free to speak to one of our community health workers today by calling Progreso Latino, Inc. 401-728-5920 if you need further assistance or want to address any concerns you may have for yourself or someone you know,” said Mario Bueno, executive director of Progreso Latino.

“As the dangerous Delta variant grows stronger and spreads wider, the most important tool we have against this fight is the COVID vaccine, which is extremely safe and easily accessible in everyone’s neighborhood,” said Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera. “We need to increase our COVID vaccine rates quickly, in Central Falls and beyond. Thanks to organizations like Progreso Latino who are working hard to educate residents, our Senators in DC who continue to advocate for our community, and our Office of Constituent Services and Health for speaking directly with families about the importance of the vaccine, I hope to see our community overcome vaccine hesitancy and increase our vaccine rates.”

“The Delta variant is approximately 50% more transmissible than older variants. As it spreads across the country, we are seeing growing rates of infection, hospitalization, and death - but almost exclusively among the unvaccinated. The good news is that the approved vaccines still work to prevent disease, once you are fully vaccinated (eg, are 2 weeks out from your second shot off Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or your single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine).  Here in Rhode Island, thanks to federal, state, and municipal leadership, we have better vaccination rates than in most of the country. But we aren’t out of the woods. Too many of our younger residents, under age 50, have not yet been vaccinated, and vaccination rates are uneven across the state, putting us at risk. I have discussions with unvaccinated folks every day in the ER. Many of them think they can’t be affected by this virus, or didn’t realize that the vaccines are safe and effective. I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important it is to show up and get your shots now, to protect yourself and your community,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, Professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rhode Island has the fifth highest percentage of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with about 60 percent.  And about 70 percent of Rhode Islanders ages 18 and older are fully vaccinated.  But the rate of vaccination shots administered in the state is slowing to about 1,000 per day, down from about 5,000 to 7,000 first-time doses administered per day during the spring.

All three of the major COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) have effectively stood up to the Delta variant in terms of preventing severe disease. 

To date, there have been only a dozen known and recorded COVID-19 cases evolving from the Delta variant in Rhode Island, according to the latest data from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH).  But 24 states nationwide have already experienced an increase of at least 10 percent in COVID-19 cases, according to recent data from Johns Hopkins University.

Public health experts urge anyone who has any of the main COVID-19 symptoms to get tested, even if they feel like it’s the common cold.