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Frontline essential workers are next up to bat in the North Carolina COVID-19 vaccination plan.

The state has been vaccinating Groups 1 and 2.

On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that providers can begin vaccinating Group 3 on Feb. 24, beginning with childcare workers and educators from pre-school to 12th grade. This also includes education workers such as bus drivers and school food service workers.

Then, on March 10, all other frontline essential workers can begin getting the vaccine.

The CDC defines frontline essential workers as workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19.

Shortly after Cooper’s announcement, the North Carolina Association of Educators released the following statement:

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 Governor Cooper is an important step forward in making that a possibility,” said Tamika Walker Kelly, President of the North Carolina Association of Educators. “By giving all educators, including bus drivers, maintenance workers, nutrition workers, and those who work directly in the classroom vaccination priority, we will be able to resume in-person instruction more quickly and safely. We thank Governor Cooper for listening to the overwhelming message from educators, parents, and the community that educators require vaccination priority.

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.

NCAE is the state’s largest education advocacy organization for public school employees and represents active, retired, and student members.

Until this point, North Carolina has been vaccinating health care workers that work directly with patients, long-term care staff and residents and all North Carolinians ages 65 and older.

As the state announces the inclusion of new groups, individual counties are able to progress at their own discretion. Counties may wait to begin vaccinating groups due to vaccine availability or other limitations.

Here is the full breakdown of North Carolina’s vaccination groups:

Group 1 includes health care workers with in-person patient contact, as well as long-term care staff and residents.

Group 2 includes anyone 65 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation.

Group 3 includes “frontline essential workers,” meaning workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19. This is distinct from “essential workers” who are not on the frontlines.

Group 4 includes adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness.

That means anyone between the ages of 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from COVID-19. That can include cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes and others.Triad health departments helping long-term care facilities get vaccinated 

In addition to North Carolinians at high risk, Group 4 also includes any people who are incarcerated, living in close group living settings and essential workers who have not already gotten the vaccine in previous groups.

The CDC defines “essential workers” as those in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, public safety (e.g., engineers) and public health workers.

Group 5 is for anyone else who wants the COVID-19 vaccine.