Cooper pushes teachers up on vaccination priority list
Gov. Roy Cooper and state health and safety officials provide a Feb. 10, 2021, update on the coronavirus outbreak in North Carolina and the state's response to it.
Good afternoon, everybody and thank you for joining today's update on co vid 19 in North Carolina. As of today, we have had 805,898 lab confirmed cases, 3833 new cases reported since yesterday, 2291 people in the hospital and, sadly, 10,181 people who died has always Our prayers are with those who have lost loved ones or who are still battling this virus. Today we want to share an update on the next phase of our vaccine effort Right now. Providers air continuing to vaccinate healthcare workers, long term care residents and staff and people aged 65 up. It's critical to get this age group vaccinated is more than 80% of our covert 19 deaths happened to people ages 65 up? People in these groups are still getting 1st and 2nd vaccinations, and that will keep happening even after the next phase starts. Now we can share what's next on the timeline. Beginning on February the 24th, the state will expand the eligibility to Group three essential workers, starting with educators and school personnel and then expanding to additional Group three frontline workers on March the 10th. This gradual approach will allow the state to balance the number of people in Group three with the limited supply, ensuring that North Carolina can continue using its entire vaccine allocation each week. So what will happen on February 24th? Educators will be the first members of Group three to be eligible to receive this vaccine as frontline essential workers. This will include teachers, principals, childcare providers, bus drivers, custodial staff, cafeteria workers and other education workers in our pre K through 12 schools and childcare centers. State anticipates that this will include about 240,000 people now. This is important. Essential workers are just that essential. They have worked throughout this pandemic, and we know that educators can continue to work safely even before the vaccine being administered. As long a schools follow state health guidance, schools can get students back in the classroom safely right now, and that's what I want them to do. And our childcare providers have remained open since the beginning of this pandemic to care for Children as parents went to their jobs. I'm grateful to all of our educators and school personnel for going above and beyond in this pandemic, starting with a smaller number of Group three. Frontline Essential workers helps provider streamline vaccine distribution effectively and efficiently. Providers will be able to start distributing the vaccine methodically for these essential workers, while continuing vaccinations for those 65 older and health care workers who are still eligible. Moving to the next phase is good news. The challenge continues to be the very limited supply of the vaccine. I'm proud of North Carolina success and getting all of our first does shots and arms each week before the next shipment comes. We want to keep that up. As of last night, the state has administered almost 1.5 million vaccines, and we're continuing to push from. Or yesterday, the Biden administration told governors across the country that each state would receive 5% Mawr vaccine, which amounts to about 75 500 Mawr doses 7500 more doses in North Carolina this week. The MAWR vaccines we can get, the better off we are, and we're gonna keep pushing for that every day. Now I know that people are frustrated and mawr than ready for their vaccine. Everybody should get one, and it's important, and I know a lot of people wanna be next. I look forward to the day when it's my turn. I appreciate the hard work of our health care workers across the state to quickly and fairly get these shots into people's arms. In the meantime, there are still steps we must take to keep ourselves and each other safe. You've heard to say it many times before, but it's because it matters so much where you mask anytime you leave your house, stay 6 ft apart. Wash your hands. If we double down on our prevention efforts, we can save MAWR lives even before vaccines. Help us turn the corner on this pandemic. And I want to recognize our secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr Mandy Cohen. Dr Cohen thank you Governor as governor, Cooper noted, because vaccine supply continues to be so limited and our Group three population of frontline essential workers is so large, will need to move to that next group gradually. Therefore, beginning on February 24th, frontline essential workers who work in child care or in pre K to 12 schools will become eligible for the covert vaccine. This includes staff in childcare centers and homes, Head Start programs, preschool and pre K programs, traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools. Anyone who must be in person, like teachers, bus drivers, van drivers, custodial and maintenance staff and food service worker will be eligible to take their shot over the next two weeks. We will continue to vaccinate those 65 older and health care workers as we also work with our partners to develop operational guidance to support childcare and school staff in accessing vaccines. It's important to note that our current prevention measures in schools and childcare settings will not change the childcare Strong N. C. Public health guidance has allowed childcare programs to be open and nurturing young Children throughout this pandemic. And I want to give a huge shout out to all our child care staff for their hard work and commitment. Are strong schools and see guidance also remains in effect. Schools can and should be providing in person instruction. Under robust safety measures, all students can be in classrooms with middle and high school students, also following 6 ft of social distancing protocols. Studies continue to reaffirm that strong prevention measures measures like the ones we have for North Carolina schools work as we shared last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited North Carolina as an example that schools can reopen safely even during periods of high community transmission when they follow the specific Cove in 19 safety protocols. Even with the thousands of students and teachers attending in person school across the state, we have seen few Cove in 19 clusters in our public schools, and I'm grateful to my girls teachers here in Wake County and the school staff who've gone over and above to implement safety protocols so they could attend in person school this year as we move forward to vaccinate North Carolinians quickly and equitably. As the governor said, supplies remain extremely limited, but we hope to have another vaccine approved and available soon. We will plan for additional frontline essential workers to become eligible for vaccine on March 10th. Keep up the great work doing the three W's. Wear that mask, wait 6 ft apart, wash your hands often and be sure to visit your spot your shot dot n c dot gov For accurate information, you will have a spot to take your shot. Thank you, Governor. Thanks, Dr Cohen, your leadership is really appreciated. Also with me today is our secretary of public safety, Eric Cooks. Our emergency management director, Mike Spray Berry is also with us Monica, Maggie and Brian Tipton, our our sign language interpreters behind the scenes jasmine material, and Erica Kugler, Our our Spanish language interpreter's will now take questions from the media. And if you could identify yourself and your organization, we will go ahead and take the first question. Our first question is from Richard Craver with the Winston Salem Journal. Hello, well, Governor Secretary CO. When this is Richard Craver with the Winston Salem Journal. So when it comes to March 10th, do you have any, um, list of priorities of which essential workers may start on March 10th? Or is that a situation that you're gonna open it to all central workers? At that point? One of the things that is important to note is that everybody deserves a vaccine, and when you have tremendous demand, millions of people needing a vaccine in North Carolina, but you're dealing with thousands of shots, then that is a very difficult thing to do, to prioritize. I think it's been important that we've gone into our long term care facilities and their staff that we've got in front line health care workers and people 65 up because over 80% of the people who have died have been 65 or older, that's been important. But it's also been, ah, lot easier for vaccine providers because age is a simple thing. And whether you're a health care worker, a nursing home, this essential worker category is much more complicated because it's a lot of people who are doing very important frontline jobs, and we're really grateful for that. So one of the reasons why we're beginning this with smaller groups at a time is there gonna have toe figure out their methodology and their systems for being able to, uh, set up things, whether it's going toe schools or other places, too. Get these vaccinations into people's arms, and I think that that is an issue that the health care team is going to look at as to whether they can open up all of the categories, whether they have to go to another subpart. I think that's something that they will be figuring, uh, down the road. Anything to add to that Dr Cohen. Hi, Richard. The only thing I'd add is remember, as a governor and I keep saying the supplies are incredibly limited, and so we will see how supply looks as we move over the next number of weeks. Now, the Biden administration has given us slightly mawr vaccine each and every week. And we know that the FDA is now reviewing a third vaccine. So we're hopeful that we'll be able on March tend to make mawr of our frontline workers eligible. But we really have to look at the supply at that time and then make further decisions. We know we're going to start with the groups we announced today, um, our our teachers and our child care workers and other, um, support staff and our pre Cade Thio 12 schools. Um, but then again, we really need to be looking at our supply to make sure that we can meet the demand that is out there. Thank you. Thanks. Next question. Please. Way. We have a follow up. Richard Craver. Winston Salem Journal one quick follow up of the list that we've been using for the central Route three workers. Has any of that changed related Thio today's announcement? In terms of the categories, I know it has not. We're continuing to operate off of the same system, you know, we've we've stuck very closely to federal guidance, and we know that federal guidance has changed a lot over the last few months. But what we're trying to do is to set these dates to give our providers the time, toe operationalize all of this. I think things are moving fairly smoothly now. I know people are there's not enough space is for everybody that wants a shot still, So I know that there's frustration with getting appointments and trying to sign Sign up, Grandma or Father, and I know that those issues can be frustrating. But there's mawr supply coming. The providers air out there working, we're adding, continue to add on more providers and hopefully is more supply comes. We could get everybody That shot and, uh, turned turned the corner. Next question, please. Our next question is from Laura Leslie with W r E o. Hi, Governor, This is Laura Leslie with historial. Thanks for taking my question. Um, so here in Wake County, we only have vaccinated about 45% of the people 65 up, Um, at this point, and you know, I keep hearing you say and Secretary Cohen say that teachers don't need to be vaccinated to reopen schools safely. So why make this move now? Why not wait until more of your 65 up population has received the shot? Well, this is one of the reasons why the state is not making this move until February 24th. That gives the state two more weeks to vaccinate those 65 order and older as the supply is increasing. We do know that we want to get to our frontline essential workers as soon as we can. And waiting two more weeks, though, to continue to build on that 65 older. And making sure we get more and more of them vaccinated is an important part of this. And, uh, we want everybody to be vaccinated so everybody can be safer. But you're right. We we believe schools can open safely right now, as long as health protocols are followed. But all the other essential frontline workers are also doing their work now because it needs to be done. And this state is gonna work hard to make sure everybody gets vaccinated at the end of the day. Want anything to that? Uh, next question, please. Way. We have a follow up. Laura Leslie wrl Just a quick follow up. Thank you. Um, so, you know, we're hearing a lot of concerns from rural communities saying that they feel like, you know, there's these mega sites going on in these urban areas, you know, like the triangle in Charlotte. Um, but in the meantime, the rural areas feel like they're not getting, you know, just a just a handful of shots. Really a week. Um, are you considering reconfiguring the way that you're distributing the vaccine? Well, first nobody's getting enough. Everybody says they can use mawr vaccine from rural to urban, and one of the things we believe was very important is that every county get vaccines and that we pay attention to our rural areas as well. And I'll let Dr Cohen pay a little more attention to that on detail. Hi, Laura. I'll reiterate what the governor said, which is we recognize there's so many of our vaccine providers that could be administering Mawr vaccine. There just isn't the supply. So the way we are allocating our vaccine, its first is the vast majority of it in the baseline is strictly distributed based on pop county population. That ensures that all 100 counties are getting vaccine proportional to the folks who are in their counties. So yes, our rural communities that do serve less, folks do get less doses. Um, but we're using our population again to make sure we're getting to everywhere we do give a slight increase for those who are serving Mawr folks who are over the age of 65 and our low income and come from our historically marginalized populations. We spent a lot of time yesterday talking about equity as part of our strategy that comes in our allocation methodology. But it also comes in the events that we support. And as you can have seen over the last number of weeks, we've supported events in all parts of the of of the state from Duplin County, um, Thio to something in Charlotte. So we are trying to really get that geographic distribution and and how we are getting vaccine out to everyone. But again, I know the frustrating thing is that we do not have enough supply. Um, and that is exactly why we as we move to our frontline, essential workers. We want to do that in a thoughtful, on gradual way. Thank you. Thanks. Next question, please. Yeah, Our next question is from Laura Lee with Carolina Public Press. But afternoon governor is largely from Carolina public press. Um, we're talking about equity and fairness, and we have seen accounts of people skipping line in groups one and two. And I'm just wondering, as we're expanding the list of providers is announced yesterday. What mechanisms are in place to keep people from saying that they're from frontline essential workers like a specifically, um, educators air working in child care? What mechanisms are in place to keep people from doing that and skipping on Well, first, uh, the state is allowing locals some flexibility, and we've seen a lot of situations, particularly with this vaccine requiring cold storage and the fact that once you take out a bunch of it, you have to put it in people's arms before it goes bad, and the state has continued to say to them that Look, we want you to make sure that you get vaccines and people's arms. We recognize that once you move away from age based and get into what people do for a living, that it makes it harder. Uh, we are strongly encouraging, uh, the providers to follow the state guidelines Thio. And that includes not only getting all of the shots off of the shelves during the week that you have it so that we can get Mawr oven allotment, but also being equitable about how you are distributing it, and the state can use that allocation process. If someone keeps violating the rules or someone keeps doing it wrong or doesn't perform the right way, then the state can can use that process. But I will let Dr Cohen expound on that. Hi, Laura. As you may remember, a number of weeks back, the governor and I asked the boards of medicine, nursing pharmacy and others to work with us to develop a process for anyone who was having egregious violations of these prioritization protocols. So we do have a process in place. And so if folks are seeing any reports of flagrant violations of skipping the line, you can report that to our team. We will go through a process of investigating that, um and if need be circling back with both that provider for whether whether is it just education that they need? Or is there something mawr as well as working closely with our, um, boards, as I said of medicine, pharmacy nursing, um, and others to make sure if there's any other additional action that needs to be taken that we will, um, so what? What we have seen so far is that our our providers are really working hard to get to our 65 up population. Think they're doing an excellent job and they're doing it equitably. We do want to be alerted if there are these flagrant violations, particularly want to understand. If anyone is using this for financial gain, these vaccines should be free. Um, and so if anyone is doing any sort of selling of these vaccines or selling a place in line, that is certainly something you want to flag to our department, and then we would be investigating that Thank you. Next question. Please follow up. Loralee Carolina, Public Press. Thanks for that. I guess my question was actually a little bit more about this sort of less nefarious instances. And I'm just wondering, logistically, as people present Thio, um, their health care provider, the vaccine provider, and say hi, I'm here is an essential worker. Is there? I mean, under the current guidance, that doesn't appear there's any identification required. You know what mechanism is there to preclude? Not necessarily the provider doing the kinds of things you are talking about but individuals who are showing up and saying I work in this field or that field, You know, what kind of check is there on the logistics of that? To make sure that people are in the categories that air currently eligible. Obviously, you're gonna rely somewhat on people's honesty. Uh, we're also gonna be having these providers will be having days where certain groups of people where they might work in one particular place and that would naturally limit the field. At the end of the day, we need to get shots and arms, and I you know, I don't know some some localities maim or B'more rigid on this than others. We want to get the shots and arms. We want to get them to the right place. I'll let Dr Cho and say something else on that. Just one more piece on this Laura, the other way in which we're actually using some of our operational tools, Sort of, as the governor was saying, is that we that as we work with Frontline essential workers, obviously they have an employer, and that allows for a partnership between the vaccinating provider and the employer who can identify their employees. So I think those partnerships will be helpful. Um, we'll have a portal that will allow employers, um, to upload, um, and pre register their employees. So I think they're going to be some of those functions that will will help. But again, I think we are asking folks to understand that we have very limited supply to really abide by these privatizations. Everyone will get a shot. Um, but but we have to use these prioritization is given that the low supply that we have. Thanks. Thank you. Next question, please. Our next question is from Brian Anderson with the Associated Press. Hi, governor. Hi. Dr Cohen. Thank you for the time I had to. Part of for you. Just kind of elaborating on the previous question. Uh, that's that's helpful information about partnerships, but is there going to be any ID requirement, uh, for people to prove their employment status? Uh, other than the fact that I'd like to pride myself on being an honest person, is there anything that would prevent me from lying and going in person? Uh, even if it's not my turn, and also just a Sfar as eligibility. Uh, we're hearing struggle still of the appointment making process for those who are 65 up. Is it possible that a teacher would be able to get an appointment before someone 65 up under this plan? You take care. Hi, Brian. Right now, we do not have an identification requirement again. We want to make sure that we are moving things along with with speed and equity here, and that is what we intend to do. So s So there's no I i d. Requirement, but you may have to show identification in a particular location. Um, depending on that provider, um assed faras the appointment process We know that this can be frustrating for folks. And again, it's often because there's just not enough supply, not enough appointments. Um, but I know that we're getting better, Better and better Week over week at being able Thio Thio. Streamline the kinds of ways in which folks are getting appointments. We continue to look, um, into the future for how we can do better at streamlining appointments. As we can go, we go forward. Thanks. Next question, please. Our next question is from Dawn Von with the News and Observer. Hi. Sean Bonner, The News and Observer. Can you explain why you change course on this now moving teachers at the beginning of Group three when course trial care workers have been enforcing this whole time and another of these essential frontline jobs? And then when that opens to them well, a 65 year old still get the first available appointment? Or are they just in that same pool with everyone else in Group three once that starts? Ah, lot of that depends on the provider all the way through. We're going to continue vaccinating people who are 65 over. I think providers know that they are a priority because they're a greater risk of death. As this vaccine process has gone along, I think providers have figured out that when you have a methodology and a process that things could go more smoothly. And I think there is has been concerned about all of these essential frontline workers in a big group in Group three, all of a sudden crashing into the system that that would be problematic. So I think the vaccine team everybody together thought that it would be positive to take a subgroup of the frontline essential workers and begin that subgroup earlier in order to make sure that the process of doing this was working. Because it's different from age, and also you're gonna be dealing with employees at certain businesses at schools at childcare centers and toe. Have this two weeks to To get that set up, I think will be positive, and then they will be able to move to other frontline essential workers. Next question. Please follow up. Don von News and Observer. Hi, Thanks for the follow. So it's the timing of this related Thio urging schools toe open under Planet A or B uh, and then when the educators and everyone that works in the school building are able to be vaccinated or they're going to be central County sites to make sure that that's done, um, easily logistically for all of them. First is important to note that the research and the scientific and health evidence shows that you can safely have students in the classroom. Asl ong as the safety and health protocols are followed, even without vaccinations right now. And it's one of the reasons why Dr Cohen and I and the health team have been encouraging local school systems to begin getting our students back into the classroom in a safe way. And since that announcement, we've seen a number of local school systems that have begun to set dates and put the processes in place to get the students back in the classroom following the health care protocols. At the end of the day, we want everybody vaccinated and we want all of the workers vaccinated. But these people who are in frontline, essential jobs, they're doing just that essential jobs, and they're out there right now and all of them need to be taking safety precautions, and we're encouraging employers for them to take safety precautions, even not being vaccinated. But as soon as we could get everybody vaccinated, the better off that we will be. And that's why we're continuing to fight for supply while we're tryingto while we have set up, I think inefficient system to get this out as quickly, effectively and equitably as we possibly can. Thanks. Next question, please. Our next question is from Dewan Hogarth with W T. V. V. Good afternoon, Governor and Secretary Cohen, Guantanamo guard with W. T. V. D. Um, just in terms of logistics, are we going to see teachers and other educators be vaccinated at their schools or at their, uh, the district's? I feel like that would probably perhaps eliminate on any sort of dishonesty or someone who does not belong in that group. And if you guys looked at that and if so, what would be the plan for that? Uh, this is one of the reasons why we're giving this notice about before it starts on February 24th. It'll be a combination of all of that, but I'll let Dr Cho and talk about that specifically, Thanks do on for that question and Yes, over the next number of days. We have started looking at operational guidance, but we certainly want to make sure that we're getting input from our schools and our child care workers as well as our vaccinating providers. And I think there's gonna be a range of ways in which folks partner to do this work. I think sometimes there will be opportunities to go on site to the school itself. Others they'll create a teacher day or a child care worker Day on. We wanna make sure we're facilitating partnerships. I know we intend to make sure to, for example, use our smart start infrastructure that already works very closely with our childcare providers. And I wanna thank them for continuing to work throughout this pandemic. So I think those will help us in these operations here. But I think they'll be a number of ways in which folks will ultimately be able to access vaccine. Um, and we have a ZA governor said it was important to make the announcement today so we can get that work underway. We still have two weeks ahead of us. Ah, vaccinating those who are 65 up and I want to reiterate that just because folks become eligible on February 24th, it does not mean that that is the day you're going to get an appointment and in fact, are vaccinating. Providers may already be thinking and have longer weightless for folks who are 65 up and will continue to vaccinate our 65 up population. Eso We know this is going to be a gradual process. We know the supply is low and you'll see different ways in which teachers and childcare workers are gonna access this vaccine. Thanks. Next question, please follow up. Swan Hill Guard, ABC 11. Thank you. And just to be clear, does that mean that there is not a specific plan in place just yet for how that will be handled And then additionally with the 240,000 that that you mentioned earlier and also the number of people 65 up who have yet to be vaccinated? Do you guys have a target date in mind for when you see both of those groups being fully vaccinated? There are plans being made right now to make sure that those essential workers and others can be vaccinated. But I'll let Dr Cohen talk a little bit about the targets as high to one. So as I was sharing, we're going to continue to be vaccinating those who are 65 up. And we know that our vaccinating providers have wait lists. We know that the group of our teachers, our bus drivers, cafeteria workers or child care workers it's about 240,000 people. Remember that the state in total gets about 150001st doses week over week. So we know it would take a number of weeks. But we also are still vaccinating those who are over 65. My goal is to make sure everyone in those categories gets a vaccine. Um, and get that quickly and equitably. But it's going to take us some time because the supply is limited. Thanks. Thanks. Next question, please. The next question is from Kim King with wlos. Good afternoon. And thank you for taking my class. I appreciate it. Um, Dr Cohen, we've been talking with Polk County officials. They say they have been talking with Mike Spray Berry, emergency manager management director for the state, about holding a large site here. Could you speak to how soon this could take place? Uh, they're in talks at this point. Mike Spray Berry here, so we'll let him come up and answer that question. Mike is our emergency management director. Yes, thank you for that question on. But this point in time as madam secretary and the governor of noted supply vaccine is limited. So it's being very judiciously placed in certain community vaccination events. And they're the equestrian center has been placed in Polk County on a list of counties that they're willing to provide a vaccination site when we get the appropriate number of vaccine and it falls into the plan. Thank you. Next question, please. Our final question today is from Tina Terry with wsoc. Hey there. Thank you so much for taking my question. I wanted to find out if educators with co morbidity will be given priority over other teachers in this plan. And also, are there specific vaccine providers who will be assigned toe work toward vaccinating these teachers first, it's important to note that teachers who are 65 over or any any of these frontline essential workers 65 over are eligible, but I'll let Dr Cohen in the rest of that. Hi, Tina. The governor is exactly right. Anyone over the age of 65 already eligible if their teacher childcare worker and I'd also remind folks we also have medical personnel like our school nurses who are already eligible for vaccination. Um, but we are not sub prioritizing within those groups. So any one of our teachers, um, our or our support staff. So our cafeteria workers bus drivers, as I mentioned before, they're all eligible. Um, starting on February the 24th and again, you're gonna see a range of ways in which folks, um, do get their vaccination Sometimes. Like I said, it will be working with a specific vaccine provider and maybe the local health department. It may be one of their hospitals. Um, it may be a pharmacy in in their, uh, in their district. So I think we'll see a number of ways and again, we've already been working with our partners on developing this operational guidance. You're going to see that develop. That's why we've given ourselves this time to continue to prepare and make sure that we can move into this next phase in a gradual way. While we also are vaccinating those who are over 65 our healthcare workers. Thank you, Tina. You had to follow up my final question. Where did you find the additional vaccine that allows you to move forward with vaccinating educators in group three? Thanks, Tina. So week over week, we get new shipments from the federal government. Um, we'll get about 150,000 new first doses week over week. The second doses come in a mirror to that a few weeks later. Um, and actually, uh, over the last number of weeks, abided administration has increased our allocation a bit by bit. We were about 120,000 week now are about 100 and 50. Next week will be 100 55. So we are getting a little bit more each time. The additional piece here is We are are hopeful that a third vaccine will be reviewed and approved by the FDA soon. That could certainly also increase our supply of vaccine. Just at a time where we we definitely need it. We want to get to more more people. So we're looking forward to having more supply. As the governor continue Thio mention he is advocating all the time to to the federal government to make sure we have can have more vaccine here. The CDC has represented that North Carolina is vaccinating at a very quick great. We have used more than 90% of our first doses week over week over week. Um, and that's where we're going to continue to do because we need more supply here. Thank you. Thank you all for joining us today. Stay safe out there, four.