As schools in Burke County opened back up for in-school instruction, staff can start being vaccinated for COVID-19 this week.
That comes as the county is seeing its cases of COVID-19 fall.
The Burke County Health Department reported 24 new cases for a total of 9,356 cases on Monday, up from 9,332 cases on Saturday.
The Burke County COVID-19 dashboard, which lags behind the health department’s daily briefing, showed 598 active cases on Monday. It showed eight people in the county are currently hospitalized due to the virus. The county has reported 138 deaths from the virus so far.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,567 people in the state were hospitalized due to the virus on Monday. It reported 2,133 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 844,770 cases and a daily percent positive rate of 6.2%.
The state has reported a total of 10,934 deaths from the virus as of Monday, up from 10,896 deaths on Saturday.
As for COVID-19 vaccinations, NCDHHS showed 11,572 people in Burke County have received the first dose, while 7,334 people have received both doses.
Starting Wednesday, teachers and school staff can start being vaccinated.
A release from Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge said the state is giving priority to Pre-K through 12th grade teachers and school staff, along with childcare settings staff.
The release said the Burke County Vaccination Team, in partnership with Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge, Burke County Health Department and Burke County Emergency Services, will be working with both public and private school systems this week to get teachers, school staff and child care staff to be vaccinated as safely and quickly as possible.
The team will not be hosting one clinic specifically for teachers but will be working with the school systems to make it convenient for the teachers to attend the public vaccination clinics being held at Freedom High School, the release said. The school systems will take care of scheduling their staff and they will be prioritized based on their age, health conditions and/or working with special needs kids.
Cheryl Shuffler, public information officer for Burke County Public Schools, said the school system has set up appointments for 330 staff on Wednesday and it will set up appointments for 330 staff next week. Wednesday is a remote learning day, so students won’t be in the classroom, Shuffler said.
As of Friday, the school system had 660 staff who had signed up for the vaccination, Shuffler said. Since then, the system also has had other staff tell them they want it, she said. The system has had other employees who contacted them to be taken off the list because they’ve received the vaccine elsewhere, she said.
The school system has around 1,450 employees, including part-time, full-time, substitute teachers and contract employees, Shuffler said.
Shuffler said the school system is starting the staff vaccinations with those 50 years old and older or those who have reached out to tell them they have underlying health risks. Teachers who work with special-needs students and can’t wear a mask also have been given priority, she said.
Those scheduled for appointments are from a cross-section of employees from various schools, Shuffler said.
"We are excited that this day has finally come for school employees as it adds another layer in the fight against COVID-19 and hopefully gets us a step closer to returning to a sense of normalcy.”
The health department warned that even though a person receives the COVID-19 vaccine, they still need to practice the 3 W’s prevention for a while until more people receive the vaccine.
Anyone in the priority groups of health care workers and those 65 years old or older are still eligible to schedule an appointment.
On March 10, other frontline essential workers can start getting vaccinated.
Walgreens also has started vaccinations for priority groups. It is receiving doses directly from the federal government.
Visit www.walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19 to schedule an appointment at Walgreens. No walk-ins will be accepted.
Those in the current priority group can call the Community Vaccine Call Center on Monday to check for appointment availability. The call center is open Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the number is 828-358-4454.
Anyone with local questions about COVID-19 can call 828-764-9150. The line is answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If a call is made after hours, on the weekends or on holidays, the caller should leave a message and the call will be returned.