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Gov. Cooper: Front-line essential workers can get vaccinated starting Feb. 24

Cooper promised teachers and child care workers will get top priority for the next wave of COVID-19 vaccinations. About 240,000 people are in the group.

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced the state will begin Group 3 COVID-19 vaccinations for front-line essential workers on Feb. 24, promising to give teachers and child care providers top priority for the shot. 

“I am grateful to all of our educators and school personnel for going above and beyond in this pandemic to care for children and help them continue to learn,” Cooper said. “Starting with a smaller number of Group 3 front-line essential workers helps providers streamline vaccine distribution effectively and efficiently.”

An estimated 240,000 people are in the first subgroup. Cooper said North Carolina will expand to additional Group 3 front-line workers on March 10. 

Group 3 includes frontline essential workers, who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19.

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"In-person learning is obviously the best way to do things. We know this. It's a pandemic, we need to get people to where they're vaccinated so that if they get the illness, it's not necessarily going to kill them," said Steve Oreskovic, a CMS teacher. He still would like to be vaccinated before returning to the classroom. "It needs to be quickened as much as possible." 

Cooper said starting with a smaller number of Group 3 workers helps providers streamline vaccine distribution effectively and efficiently. Providers can start distributing the vaccine methodically for essential workers while continuing to vaccinate those currently eligible. 

In Mecklenburg County, law enforcement officers still have not been vaccinated. Now, they're pushed back even further.

"They don't have an option to go home and work from home. They have to be patrolling the streets, responding to calls," said Yolian Ortiz, a spokesperson for FOP Lodge 9.  

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.

As of Wednesday, North Carolina has administered more than 1 million first doses of vaccine and more than 1.5 million total doses.

"Moving to the next phase is good news," Cooper said. "The challenge continues to be the very limited supply of the vaccine." 

North Carolina is expected to receive more doses of vaccine over the coming weeks heading into March. This increase and certainty of advanced knowledge into the supply chain several weeks out have allowed the state to plan to open vaccinations to group 3. 

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Last week, Cooper strongly urged that all schools provide in-person learning for students. 

"It’s important schools follow the safety protocols laid out by North Carolina health officials," Cooper said. "That guidance reinforces in-person learning while maintaining strong public health measures." 

Cooper said students should still have the option of remote learning this school if that is best for them.

"And teachers who are at risk should be providing that remote instruction," Cooper said. "But students who are ready to return to the classrooms should have that chance."

The governor's announcement came days after three Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doctors published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association about how safe in-person learning could be possible during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Senate passed a bill that would require school districts to provide in-person learning options for students K-12.

The bill titled 'In-Person Learning Choice for Families,' passed in a 29-15 vote.

The bill gives local school districts the choice between providing in-person learning under either Plan A, Plan B, or a combination of both. All families are still able to opt for remote learning if they so choose.

WFMY contributed to this report. To receive breaking news from WCNC Charlotte, download the WCNC Charlotte mobile news app.  

RELATED: Why are many healthcare workers refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

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