Gov. Roy Cooper lays out timeline for next vaccination group

Gov. Roy Cooper briefs media from the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via N.C. Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH – Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Wednesday that some Group 3 essential workers will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning on Feb. 24.

Cooper said the state needed to move gradually into the next grouping. Those working in child care or in PreK – 12 schools, such as teachers, bus and van drivers, custodial and maintenance staff, and food service workers, will be eligible first. This includes staff in child care centers and homes, Head Start Programs, Preschool and PreK programs, traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools.

Additional Group 3 workers will become eligible on March 10.

“I am grateful to all of our educators and school personnel for going above and beyond in this pandemic to care for children and help them continue to learn,” said Gov. Cooper. “Starting with a smaller number of Group 3 frontline essential workers helps providers streamline vaccine distribution effectively and efficiently.”

More than 40% of the state’s residents 65 and older have been vaccinated, according to N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services secretary Mandy Cohen.

“Vaccine supply limitations continue to impact how fast we can get all North Carolinians vaccinated,” said Secretary Cohen. “Keep doing the 3Ws. Wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash your hands often. And be sure to visit for accurate information.”

The N.C. Association of Educators quickly responded to the news, with NCAE president Tamika Walker Kelly saying, “North Carolina public school educators are eager to get back into their classrooms as soon as it is safe to do so, and today’s announcement from Gov. Cooper is an important step forward in making that a possibility.”

Walker Kelly’s statement also took issue with Senate Bill 37, which would mandate the opening of schools and appears headed towards Gov. Cooper’s desk. The bill passed through the House K-12 Education committee on Feb. 10 and was sent to the House Rules, Calendar, and Operations Committee.

“This also shows how unnecessary Senate Bill 37 really is, which would undermine the return to in-person instruction by restricting the decision-making of local school boards and shows a lack of understanding about the necessity of mainstreaming most exceptional children as required by federal law. When it comes to these local decisions, a one-size-fits-all approach fails almost every time,” Walker Kelly said.

State officials say they expect more doses of vaccine over the coming weeks heading into March. This increase and certainty of advance knowledge into the supply chain several weeks out has allowed the state to plan to open vaccinations to the next group.

This is a developing story and will be updated.