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Teachers may have to wait another couple of weeks for COVID-19 vaccinations, Cohen says
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Teachers may have to wait another couple of weeks for COVID-19 vaccinations, Cohen says

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Teachers, other preK-12 educational and child care personnel may become eligible Wednesday for the COVID-19 vaccine as the first subgroup of Group Three.

However, state Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen told a legislative committee Tuesday that it could take one to two more weeks for many individuals in Group Three subgroup to actually get vaccinated.

Cohen stressed that individuals in Groups One and Two — those 65 and older, and healthcare workers —remain a priority for vaccination appointments.

"We know we have waitlists for those 65 and up, and we want to be able to continue vaccinating at the high level we are," Cohen said.

Cohen said DHHS will receive by Wednesday two weeks' worth of vaccine from the federal government as a result of the winter cold snap delaying last week's shipments.

Statewide, the initial Group Three vaccination subgroup covers 240,000 public, private and religious school teachers and other educators, including pre-K administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, Head Start program employees, and preschool and pre-K workers.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools has 8,327 employees, includings substitutes and contractors.

Vaccinations for teachers will take place at the Forsyth County health department's site at Winston-Salem Fairgrounds' Education Building and at Novant Health Inc.'s site at Hanes Mall. Those are the same sites being used for Group One and Group Two vaccinations by the respective groups.

Joshua Swift, the county's health director, said Tuesday about 1,500 WSFCS faculty and staff are projected to be vaccinated Saturday. Swift said there will be WSFCS staff to verify that those showing up are system employees.

Novant said Tuesday it is providing 500 doses toward the WSFCS vaccination initiative. Wake Forest Baptist Medical also is providing 500 vaccines to the county, Swift said.

WSCFS lists on its website that the vaccination schedule at both sites as 3 to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 8:30 to 1 p.m. Saturdays. The system’s vaccination information can be found at www.wsfcs.k12.nc.us/domain/79.

Swift said an additional 600 doses will be provided Thursday to Group Three individuals with private and religious schools.

More Group Three

There are about 345,000 North Carolinians in the other Group Three frontline essential worker sectors. Appointments could begin for those individuals on March 10.

The sectors include: food-processing and medical equipment manufacturing; food and agriculture supply chains; essential goods; government and community services; public health and social worker; public safety, first responders and law enforcement; and transportation.

Novant said it already has more than 24,000 individuals for Group Three pre-registered as www.getvaccinated.org, as well as 53,000 for Groups Four and Five.

"Because our supply is so limited is why we are stepping through frontline workers in subgroups," Cohen said.

When asked why DHHS chose to move forward with Group Three, Cohen said "we have been surveying our vaccinating providers every week to determine what they are seeing on the ground about demand and are they ready to move on to the next group."

"Everyone is not ready, and they don't need to be ready to move on (Wednesday), but many are.

"We're hopeful that the timing with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will work with our March 10 plans for additional essential workers," Cohen said.

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Cohen said that besides 300 Walgreens stores in N.C. getting vaccine supplies, there are between 60 and 70 independent pharmacies that are providing doses as well.

Cohen also said there are more than 1,000 medical providers with the capacity to administer vaccinations once there is more supply to activate their usage.

COVID-19 updates

North Carolina reached another three-month low in new daily COVID-19 cases with 1,514, DHHS reported Tuesday.

It's the lowest case count since Nov. 9 when 1,521 were reported. The state has reported 846,284 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

DHHS reported 31 COVID-19 deaths statewide. The overall death toll is 10,965.

"Our cases, percentage of tests positive and our hospitalizations are down," Cohen said. "That's all good."

"The variants can be more contagious, that cause more severe disease, that have the potential to evade our new vaccine. Thankfully, they are not dominant in North Carolina yet."

Forsyth had 49 new cases Tuesday — the lowest daily count since 47 on Nov. 3.

It was the first time Forsyth had four consecutive days with fewer than 100 new cases since Oct. 25-28.

There were no additional COVID-19 reported deaths in Forsyth.

With five days remaining, February is already the county's deadliest month with 60 deaths reported. The overall death toll is 338 for Forsyth.

DHHS lists COVID-19 cases and deaths on the day they are confirmed by medical providers and public health officials, so individuals may have been infected or died days before their cases were counted.

Vaccinations

As of Tuesday, more than 2.14 million doses of the vaccine had been administered in N.C. — about 1.94 million by medical providers and 192,423 in long-term care centers.

In Forsyth, there have been 74,385 vaccinations administered in Forsyth, with 46,183 individuals receiving the first dose, or about 12.1% of county residents, and 28,202 receiving both doses, or 7.4%.

Swift said about 45% of Forsyth residents ages 75 and older have received their first dose, along with 40% of those ages 65 to 74.

Statewide, 1,563 COVID-19 hospitalizations were reported Tuesday, down four from Monday.

Monday's hospitalizations were at the lowest level since 1,538 on Nov. 19. The statewide hospitalization count has dropped for 27 of the last 30 days.

The 17-county Triad region reported 364 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Tuesday, up 20 from Monday. The region has had the highest daily hospitalizations of any region for most of the last 17 weeks.

The state's positive test rate was at 6.2% out of 36,159 tests conducted Sunday.

DHHS reported the Forsyth rate was at 6.8% based on 900 tests conducted Sunday.

Cohen has said it would take a statewide positive test rate of 5% or below to mark a decrease in community spread of COVID-19.

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