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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Incoming Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee has named Narragansett Town Manager James Tierney and State Sen. Bridget Valverde to the new Transition COVID-19 Advisory Group.

The body of 20 national and local leaders will advise McKee on the state’s pandemic response and vaccine roll-out, focusing on vaccine distribution at the municipal level.

The group will be led by Dr. John Stoukides and Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena.

McKee, the lieutenant governor, is set to become governor when he succeeds Gov. Gina Raimondo, who is on track to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Biden administration’s Commerce Secretary, a Cabinet position.

Tierney has served as the Narragansett town manager since 2019. He previously served as the chief of operations for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. Tierney has more than 30 years of experience in public safety, having served with the South Kingstown Police Department and later as an inspector general for the City of New York.

Tierney has coordinated efforts to disburse Narragansett’s share of $68,800 in “Take it Outside” grant money to local businesses and nonprofits to support outdoor events and initiatives due to COVID.

Valverde represents Senate District 35, which includes East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown and Narragansett. She is the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Humans Services and a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture.

The Transition COVID-19 Advisory Group will help guide the McKee transition team in “developing strategies to contain the virus, execute a swift and equitable vaccine roll-out at the state and municipal level, support high-risk populations, and continue the safe reopening of businesses and schools,” according to the McKee team’s announcement.

“Our transition is laser-focused on the COVID-19 response and vaccine roll-out,” McKee said. “That’s how we will ensure Rhode Island comes out of this crisis stronger than we went in. We want to make sure we are leveraging all the talent we have in our state, so that Rhode Island’s families can reunite, children can return to school, and small business owners can return to normal. That’s why we brought together this group of experts, who will work closely with the Rhode Island Department of Health staff to help the state achieve a swift vaccine roll-out.”

The Biden administration has promised 100 million vaccinations within the first 100 days in office.

“This advisory group, comprised of national and local experts, will work with Incoming Governor Dan McKee to provide perspective about how to maximize the efficiency of our vaccine distribution process and other elements of our COVID-19 response,” Stoukides said.  

Members of the group will be in close communication with the state’s existing COVID-19 Response Team and will advise McKee through the early months of his administration.

“The Transition COVID-19 Advisory Group is uniquely positioned to work with Incoming Governor McKee to achieve his goal of strategically engaging our municipalities in Rhode Island’s COVID-19 response to assist the state across the board, including in distributing the vaccine as quickly and efficiently as possible when the supply increases,” Polisena said.  

At a later date, McKee and Director of Health Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott will work to integrate some members of the transition group into existing Rhode Island Department of Health advisory teams, according to the announcement.

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