Wilkes County Health Director Rachel Willard said at least 9,320 Wilkes residents had received first doses of COVID-19 vaccine and at least 4,908 had received second doses by the end of last week.

Willard said the Wilkes Health Department alone had administered 9,788 first and second doses combined by then.

The health department reported that as of Monday, 6,001 Wilkes residents had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 103 COVID-19-related deaths of Wilkes residents had been confirmed since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Also on Monday, Wilkes had 215 active COVID-19 cases. This included 23 people who were hospitalized.

The number of new cases of the virus per 100,000 people in Wilkes in the prior 14 days continued to drop and was 278 on Monday.

Willard said the health department is accepting vaccination appointments for eligible people at a first dose clinic Thursday and a second dose clinic Friday. Both are drive-through clinics at Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge, with enough doses of Moderna vaccine for about 1,500 vaccinations Thursday and about 900 Friday.

Those already eligible for vaccination include health care workers with in-person patient contact, long-term care residents and staff, people 65 and older, Pre-K-12 teachers and school staff and childcare workers.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday afternoon that frontline essential workers in group three of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine eligibility plan will be eligible for vaccination starting Wednesday of this week instead of March 10 as earlier planned.

These are people who must be present in-person at their place of work in one of eight sectors:

1. People employed in “critical manufacturing,” which includes those involved in manufacturing medical supplies, medical equipment or PPE and products needed for food and agricultural supply chains.

2. College and university instructors and support staff.

3. People who make certain essential goods available, include workers in stores that sell groceries and medicine.

4. People engaged in food and agriculture, such as those working in restaurants and in meat packing, food processing and food distribution facilities.

5. People engaged in government and community services, which includes U.S. Postal Service and other shipping workers, those working in court systems, elected officials, clergy, homeless shelter staff and veterinarians, veterinarian staff and veterinarian students.

6. Public health workers and social workers.

7. Public safety personnel, including firefighters and emergency medical services, law enforcement, corrections workers, security officers and public agency workers responding to abuse and neglect.

8. People involved in transportation, including public transit workers, Division of Motor Vehicles workers, transportation maintenance and repair technicians and workers supporting highway infrastructure.

Dr. Westley Wood, assistant superintendent of the Wilkes County Schools, said during Monday night’s Wilkes school board meeting that plans are being made for administering second doses to school personnel.

Wood said 641 full- and part-time school employees (about 47% of the total) pre-registered for one of four first dose clinics Feb. 24-26. Wood said school employees who didn’t pre-register were also accepted.

Per a directive from DHHS, it was only available to school employees.

Wood said almost 50 school employees 65 and older were vaccinated in a clinic on Jan. 28 at the Stone Center and some in drive-through clinics for the general public at Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge.

He said the Wilkes County Schools are proud to partner with the Wilkes Health Department, Wilkes Sheriff’s Office and Wilkes Emergency Medical Services at these clinics.

Wood said school nurses, social workers, counselors and April Marr, director of student services, all worked at the clinics.

He said the Wilkes County Schools is one of four organizations statewide that participated in a pilot program through DHHS in which school employees registered for vaccinations on paper and electronically. Wood said the goal was to help reduce health department labor entering information about each person vaccinated in a database.

Appalachian State University announced that is set to aid in vaccine distribution after DHHS approved its application to be a community vaccine distribution center once vaccine allotments are provided.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) expected to receive 83,700 doses of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine on Wednesday following the federal government approval of distribution of the vaccine Saturday. This new vaccine doesn’t require extreme cold storage, so it can be more easily shipped, stored and administered. State officials said this should help ensure more equitable distribution and access to vaccines in every community in the state.

The other two vaccines currently in use are Moderna and Pfizer, which both are being given in two doses about a month apart.

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