Gov. Cooper accelerates timeline to vaccinate next groups in N.C.

Governor Roy Cooper has signed an executive order that allows more fans at sporting events in...
Governor Roy Cooper has signed an executive order that allows more fans at sporting events in North Carolina.(The Office of Governor Roy Cooper)
Updated: Mar. 25, 2021 at 2:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Gov. Roy Cooper is moving up the timeline to vaccinate the rest of Group 4 and Group 5 in North Carolina.

Starting on March 31, COVID-19 vaccination eligibility will open to everyone in Group 4. On April 7, all residents in North Carolina age 16 and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine.

The first portion of Group 4 became eligible to receive the vaccine on March 17.

The rest of Group 4 includes essential workers in commercial services such as hospitality and retail, chemical and pharmaceutical facilities, construction, housing and real estate and other essential sectors.

“Then the biggest change will happen on April 7th when we will open eligibility to Group 5, and that means all adults will then be eligible for the vaccine,” Cooper said.

Some North Carolina residents in Group 4 became eligible for the vaccine last Wednesday, including those at high risk of severe illness and people in certain congregate settings. The rest of Group 4 was initially set to become eligible for the vaccine starting April 7. That will now happen a week earlier.

“As of today, we’ve administered almost 4.3 million doses and almost a third of our adult population has gotten at least one shot and one in five are fully vaccinated,” Cooper said Thursday. “We are seeing continued improvement in providing vaccines to underserved communities.”

NCDHHS says they are in constant contact with providers across the state regarding vaccine capacity and supply, and say some vaccine providers may not be ready to open to Group 4 if they are still experiencing high demand for vaccines in Groups 1 through 3.

“We’ve heard from providers who really want to go ahead and start opening this up,” said Cooper.

Cooper says hospitalizations are dropping and we’re seeing improvement in our COVID-19 numbers.

Additional members of Group 4 (essential workers who are not yet vaccinated) will be eligible to get the vaccine starting March 31. This group is different from frontline essential workers.

Group 4 members eligible starting March 31:

  • Those working in the essential sectors identified in Group 3 who did not meet the criteria for frontline. Essential sectors identified in Group 3 include critical manufacturing, education, essential goods, food and agriculture, government and community services, health care and public health, public safety and transportation. See Deeper Dive Group 3.
  • Those working in additional essential sectors as defined below.
  • Chemical (including workers in petrochemical plants, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceutical facilities, consumer products)
  • Commercial facilities (including retail workers, hotel workers)
  • Communications and information technology (service repair dispatchers, data center operators)
  • Defense industrial base (including workers supporting essential services to meet national security commitments)
  • Energy (including electric, petroleum, natural and propane gas workers)
  • Financial services (including workers who maintain systems for processing financial transactions, workers needed to provide consumer access to banking and lending services)
  • Hazardous materials (including nuclear facilities workers, workers managing medical waste)
  • Hygiene products and services (including laundromats, sanitation workers)
  • Public works and infrastructure support services (including plumbers, electricians, exterminators, workers supporting parks)
  • Residential facilities, housing and real estate
  • Water and wastewater (including staff at water authorities, wastewater treatment facilities, water sampling and monitoring)
  • OTHER PEOPLE LIVING IN GROUP LIVING SETTINGS - This population includes students living in dormitories or other group living settings (e.g., fraternity or sorority houses), who are not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function.

The full Group 4 includes anyone 16-64 years old with one or more high-risk medical conditions for severe disease from COVID-19, people living in close group settings and essential workers who are not yet vaccinated.

Group 5 members eligible April 7:

  • All adults

Group 4 members who were eligible as of March 17:

  • People with medical conditions that put them at higher-risk for severe COVID-19 illness.
  • People living in some congregate settings that increase risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The March 17 members of Group 4 includes anyone with conditions that have been identified by the CDC as increasing risk for severe COVID-19 illness:

The March 17 members of Group 4 also include people living in a close group or congregate setting who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function, including:

Other groups already being vaccinated

Frontline essential workers in North Carolina became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on March 3.

Frontline workers were originally scheduled to be eligible on March 10, following teachers, school staff and daycare employees.

Educators, school staff, childcare providers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade became eligible to receive the vaccine on Feb. 24.

Cooper said that frontline healthcare workers, those 65 and older and staff and residents at long-term living facilities will still continue to receive the vaccine.

Latest executive order

COVID-19 restrictions will ease this week, allowing for max capacity limits at some places.

The new executive order will begin for North Carolina at 5 p.m. Friday, March 26. Cooper announced the new order Tuesday, days ahead of the expiration of Executive Order 195.

“Our sustained progress tell us we can move forward with easing restrictions if we do it safely,” Cooper said.

Under the new order, the following places will be able to increase capacity up to 100-percent:

  • Retail businesses
  • Salons
  • Museums

The following places will be able to operate at 75-percent capacity indoors and 100-percent outdoors:

  • Restaurants
  • Wineries
  • Breweries
  • Amusement parks
  • Gyms
  • Pools
  • Recreation establishments

Other places will be able to increase capacity to 50-percent indoors and outdoors:

  • Bars
  • Conference centers
  • Receptions venues
  • Sports arenas
  • Live performance venues

Movie theaters and gaming facilities may operate at up to 75-percent capacity outdoors under the new order.

Effective at 5 p.m. Friday, the 11 p.m. curfew for on-site alcohol consumption will be lifted. Mass gathering limits will be increased to 50 outdoors and 100 outdoors.

The mask mandate and six-feet social distancing will remain in place. All businesses must continue to maintain the six feet of distance requirement between patrons and implement other safety protocols as they expand their capacity.

DOCUMENT: Click here to read Executive Order 195 in its entirety

Cooper lifted the Modified Stay at Home order last month, at 5 p.m. on Feb. 26. There is no longer a curfew and there are more opportunities to gather, shop and attend events.

Cooper said Executive Order 195, which expires March 26, was decided on “Given the significant and sustained improvement in our COVID-19 metrics.”

In-person school reopening bill

Local school districts are making decisions on the next steps on the heels of Cooper and state lawmakers reaching an agreement on the in-person school reopening bill.

The bill, which was signed into law on March 11, requires all elementary school students to operate under Plan A, full in-person learning. Middle and high schools would have the option to operate under Plan A or Plan B.

The governor does have authority to order a closure, restriction or reduction of operations within schools but must only do so on a district-by-district basis.

Any districts that plan to move middle and high school to Plan A must notify the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services beforehand and describe their plan for moving to the plan. The purpose is to provide consultation. NCDHHS will not have the authority to veto this.

Several districts, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, have already in-person learning changes.

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