Davie County became one of among a handful of school districts in the state to provide staff members with COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday.
The school system is the first in the Triad to offer the vaccination specifically to staff members. Of Davie County Schools' 900 fulltime and part-time employees, 350 signed up for and were vaccinated at a drive-thru clinic at Davie County High School, according to Jenni Pleasant, a spokesperson for the district.
Media members were not allowed near the vaccination site for interviews or photos.
Schools employees across the state got pushed down the priority list about a month ago to allow for people aged 65 to 74 to receive shots.
Teachers are now part of the revamped Group Three category with other essential frontline workers in the following sectors: food-processing and medical equipment manufacturers; food and agriculture supply chains; essential goods; government and community services; public health and social workers; public safety, first responders and law enforcement; and transportation.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services made the Group Three adjustment in part in response to state legislative pressure to emphasize vaccinating those ages 65 to 74 before younger essential workers in certain employment sectors, such as grocery stores, food and agriculture, and manufacturing.
Counties that had already scheduled vaccination clinics for frontline workers, including teachers, were told to honor those commitments then focus on the current prioritization group, according to Catie Armstrong, an NCDHHS spokeswoman.
Suzanne Wright, the director of Davie County Health and Human Services did not return a phone call and email for comment.
The second round of shots for school employees will be Feb. 19.
Davie County Schools has had a mix of in-person and remote learning since August.
Teachers in districts from other parts of the state are weeks, and possibly months, away from getting vaccinated.
In Forsyth County, Novant and Forsyth County health officials said Tuesday there are no plans to prioritize educators, including K-12 teachers, for the vaccine other than if they are ages 65 and older.
Novant planned to vaccinate Wednesday up to 400 Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools employees in the age 65 and older category. Those vaccinations took place at Novant’s Hanes Mall mass-vaccination clinic.
In the past week, DHHS has told county health departments "that we cannot move to the next group until they inform us otherwise. It was even reiterated on a call with Secretary (Mandy) Cohen (on Monday)," said Shontell Robinson, deputy Forsyth County manager.
"We are required to follow NCDHHS's guidelines. I cannot speak to why Davie County is not doing the same."
Nikki Nissen, Novant's chief nursing officer, said Tuesday that some county health departments "have made decisions based on what is going on in their county."
"We are following the state guidance. I know that creates some (level) of inequities for some counties that are going outside those guidelines."
Marshall Marvelli, a ninth- and 10th-grade teacher at Paisley International Baccalaureate in Winston-Salem, is scheduled to get his second shot on Thursday.
After taking sick leave, he will return to his classroom on Feb. 8.
Marvelli, 78, said the possibility of contracting the virus and taking it home to his 76-year-old wife was too much of a risk. Marvelli is taking sick leave next week rather than teach his ninth-graders, who are scheduled to return on Monday. He will be back in the classroom on Feb. 8. His 10th-graders will return on Feb. 22.
Having the vaccine will allow him to go back into the classroom with confidence.
"The fact of the matter is that I know I'm not superman, but having both doses of the vaccination and the three-week lapse, I'm not really worried about it," Marvelli said. "We still mask, and I'm going to go double-masked, the room is all set up with six-feet of spacing and we're looking at the numbers, and I don't think I'm having any over-crowding. If anything, we'll be on the slim side."
Gov. Roy Cooper said at his press conference that he and Cohen discussed teacher vaccinations on Wednesday.
"We know it's going to be extremely important to get our teachers and staff vaccinated," Cooper said.
Journal Reporter Richard Craver contributed to this story.