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Educators Are Next To Get Vaccine As NC Health Providers Prepare For Group 3

Patients wait in their cars to get first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
Will Michaels

Local health providers are getting ready to administer COVID-19 vaccines to Group 3 on the state's priority list.

Teachers, school staff and child care workers will be officially eligible to get vaccinated Wednesday.

In Wake County, registration opened Monday for teachers who want to make appointments.

Wake County is using high-volume clinics like the one at PNC Arena in Raleigh to handle the influx of patients. Ryan Jury of the Wake County health department says officials are using what they've learned in the rollout so far.

"What we did a lot in Group 2 was expand our capacity tremendously through mass vaccination sites,” Jury said. “Focused vaccination through onsite events and other things will be a mechanism that we use to ensure that certain communities and groups have access to vaccines, but by and large the quickest way and most efficient and effective way for us to vaccinate is through mass vaccination.”

The clinic at PNC Arena can now vaccinate 4,000 people per-week. The Wake County Public School System is the largest district in the state, and has about 20,000 teachers and staff. The state health department estimates there are nearly a quarter of a million school employees statewide.

Local health providers across the state have been distributing the vaccines at different rates. The Durham County health department says it expects to start vaccinating teachers on Thursday, but it's still getting a disproportionately low number of doses. And Chatham County's health department is starting only with teachers who are 50 or older.

The state's smallest school district has already vaccinated most of its educators. Hyde County covers Ocracoke Island and parts of the mainland. Its 200 teachers and staff were put on a wait-list early in the state's vaccine distribution process.

Superintendent Steve Basnight says the local health department offered them shots when it had cancellations, extra doses or no-show appointments.

“You know, 'Can you come down at 4 today? Can you come down at 4:10?' and just got them in when they could get them in,” Basnight said. “I know there were several teachers that rode the ferry across from Ocracoke, seven or eight at one time.”

Basnight said to his knowledge, every educator who wanted the vaccine has gotten at least one dose.  Only about 5,000 people live in Hyde County. Numbers from the state health department show more than 20% of the county's population has gotten at least one dose.

As of Monday, 27 counties remained red on the state's alert map showing where the spread of COVID-19 is most critical. 40 counties are labeled orange with substantial spread, and 33 counties are yellow for significant spread.

The percent of coronavirus tests coming back positive has fallen to about 6%.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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