Editorial: Warp Speed wearing thin

Posted 2/18/21

‘Operation Warp Speed’ has become a bad joke and nowhere is it less amusing than in Rhode Island.

Last week, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center released a vaccination …

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Editorial: Warp Speed wearing thin


‘Operation Warp Speed’ has become a bad joke and nowhere is it less amusing than in Rhode Island.

Last week, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center released a vaccination report card and the Ocean State earned an F grade. Remarkably, Rhode Island managed to finish dead last — 50th out of 50 states — when judged on a combined score in four categories: coronavirus deaths per capita, vaccine doses administered, use of available doses, and speed of getting shots into arms. 

Massachusetts didn’t fare a whole lot better. It, too, got an F and lands in 48th place. Connecticut, meanwhile received an A grade.

Rhode Island officials were quick to push back, saying its “targeted” method of sending vaccinations to hardest hit communities first wasn’t adequately calculated into the grading curve.

But the report card does seem to validate what many here are starting to see, hear and wonder.

Tiverton’s Warp Speed experience limped out of the starting line with a weekly vaccine allotment of 60 shots — At that pace, the 75-and-over first wave of recipients won’t be taken care of until many months from now. Vaccinations for those 65 to 75 aren’t even on the horizon.

Little Compton, the town with the highest population of residents age 65 and over in the state, was awarded a grand total of 20 weekly vaccines —and the town should expect the number to stay at 20 per week until further notice..

Why 20?” Town Council President Mushen said after making that announcement last week. “Because that’s our weekly allocation.”

And while Massachusetts may have its issues, Little Compton residents looking across the town line into Westport might be envious of that town’s aggressive push by paramedics to vaccinate shut-ins — they reached 30 at home last week, another 175 older residents received their shots at the town’s Council on Aging.

Also not helping morale is the fact that everyone by now knows people from other states, — healthy people, people considerably younger than the 75-plus Rhode Islanders stuck in a holding pattern — who have received both vaccinations.

Amidst the confusion and conflicting reports, it’s difficult to sort fact from fiction and to understand why things are moving at such a seemingly glacial pace here. 

The Rhode Island governor, whose thorough, even entertaining “knock it off”  Covid-19 updates were once the talk of the nation, has had precious little to say about the subject now. Reporters had to catch her out in a parking lot to get a few words; she mostly deferred to the lieutenant governor even though she’s still in charge while waiting to start her big new job. 

Much, maybe much of the blame rests with a federal government that slapped a catchy name on the program before making much of an effort at a plan.

This is an immense and unprecedented undertaking and people have mostly been patient so far. But patience in a pandemic has limits — Warp Speed needs to shift gears in a hurry.

2021 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.