CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - COVID-19 vaccine eligibility opens to all North Carolina residents age 16 and older on Wednesday, April 7.
Gov. Roy Cooper moved up the timeline to vaccinate Group 5 ahead of schedule as more vaccine supply became available.
“Tomorrow, Group 5 becomes eligible for vaccine. This is great news,” Cooper said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “This will help us turn the corner on the pandemic even sooner.”
Cooper urged residents to encourage others to get get vaccinated. “We’re so close and everyday counts,” Cooper said. “This virus is still out there and new, more infections variants are spreading.”
There have been more than 5.2 million vaccinations in North Carolina and at least 36% of adults are at least partially vaccinated.
On March 31, COVID-19 vaccination eligibility opened to everyone in Group 4. The first portion of Group 4 became eligible to receive the vaccine on March 17.
Counties in North Carolina, including Mecklenburg, have already opened appointments for Group 5 to be scheduled on or after April 7.
“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.
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.
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Group 5 members eligible April 7:
- All adults
Group 4 members who became eligible 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 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:
- Asthma (moderate to severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease or history of stroke
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Diabetes type 1 or 2
- A heart condition such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from: immune deficiencies, HIV, taking chronic steroids or other immune weakening medicines, history of solid organ blood or bone marrow transplant
- Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, including Down Syndrome
- Liver disease, including hepatitis
- Neurologic conditions, such as dementia and schizophrenia
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Overweight or obesity
- Sickle cell disease (not including sickle cell trait) or thalassemia
- Smoking (current or former, defined as having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime)
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:
- People experiencing homelessness or living in a homeless shelter
- Correctional facility, such as jail or prison
Other groups already being vaccinated
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 have also eased, allowing for max capacity limits at some places.
The new executive order began for North Carolina at 5 p.m. Friday, March 26. Cooper announced the new order 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
The following places will be able to operate at 75-percent capacity indoors and 100-percent outdoors:
- Amusement parks
- Recreation establishments
Other places will be able to increase capacity to 50-percent indoors and outdoors:
- 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.
The 11 p.m. curfew for on-site alcohol consumption was also lifted. Mass gathering limits increased to 50 indoors 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.
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.