In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Governor Roy Cooper announced that the state will move to start vaccinating some North Carolina residents in Group 3 beginning February 24.

Educators and school staff will be the first members of Group 3 eligible for the vaccine, including teachers, principals, childcare providers, bus drivers, custodial staff, cafeteria workers, childcare center workers, and other K-12 school personnel in public, private, and charters schools, plus Pre-K and Head Start centers. (See chart from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services below for who exactly is eligible.) College and university employees are not included in this first batch of Group 3 frontline workers eligible for vaccinations. Those over age 65 will continue to receive vaccinations and other frontline workers will be eligible for their shots beginning March 10. 

“Essential workers have worked throughout this pandemic and we know educators can continue to work safely, even before the vaccine being administered, as long as schools follow the state’s guidance,” Cooper said. “Schools can get students back into the classroom safely right now and that is what I want them to do.”

Cooper said moving to the next phase of vaccinations is good news for the state, though North Carolina continues to grapple with too little supply. 

NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said it is because the vaccine supply is so limited still, and because the population of frontline workers in Group 3 is so large, that the state needs to move to the next group gradually. Cohen emphasized that current COVID prevention measures in schools and childcare centers, including masking, social distancing and frequent hand-washing, will not change.

“Schools can can should be providing in-person education with robust safety measures,” Cohen said. “The CDC cited North Carolina as an example that schools can reopen safely, even with high transmission rates, when they follow safety protocols.”

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