NC opens COVID vaccines to frontline workers early. Here’s what it means for Charlotte

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Hannah Smoot, Catherine Muccigrosso
·4 min read
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Thousands of people in Charlotte — including law enforcement and restaurant workers — will soon be eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines after Gov. Roy Cooper announced a change in schedule for the vaccination rollout plan.

North Carolina will open vaccine eligibility to thousands of frontline essential workers starting Wednesday, Cooper said in a news conference Tuesday. That’s a week earlier than the prior plan.

The state had already expanded eligibility to teachers, child care workers and school staff starting on Feb. 24. Now, the rest of Group 3 will be able to make appointments for the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Our essential frontline workers have remained on the job throughout this pandemic and I am grateful for their work,” Cooper said.

Citing the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a recent increase in total vaccine supply, stable COVID numbers and other factors, Cooper added, “There are many reasons to feel hopeful.” But he still cautioned people to continue to wear masks and socially distance.

Cooper’s announcement is a change to the schedule he detailed last month. In mid-February, Cooper had said the state would expand vaccine eligibility to those people in Group 3 starting March 10.

Group 3 includes grocery store workers, law enforcement and firefighters, college and university staff, restaurant workers and more frontline workers. Those people must be working in-person to be eligible for the vaccine in Group 3. More details are available online.

Cooper also said that North Carolina will open vaccine appointments to some members of Group 4 on March 24, beginning with people with high-risk medical conditions, as well as people in certain congregate-living settings.

As of Tuesday, North Carolina has reported 863,409 cases and 11,288 deaths.

Several grocery store chains are encouraging employees to get vaccinated and also offering incentives. For instance, Matthews-based Harris Teeter is giving $100 to employees who get both shots.
Several grocery store chains are encouraging employees to get vaccinated and also offering incentives. For instance, Matthews-based Harris Teeter is giving $100 to employees who get both shots.

Where can I get a vaccine in Mecklenburg?

Mecklenburg County Public Health offers vaccines to eligible people through a clinic at Bojangles Coliseum, and at smaller community vaccination events by appointment.

The county is opening new appointments for March 10 through March 31, Mecklenburg leaders announced Tuesday. Anyone eligible for vaccines — including everyone in Group 3 — can begin booking those appointments starting Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

Charlotte’s hospital systems, Atrium Health and Novant Health, are also offering COVID-19 vaccines by appointment.

And some Walgreens in North Carolina — including in the Charlotte area — are offering COVID-19 vaccines as well. A list of Walgreens offering shots has not been released publicly, but anyone eligible for a shot can sign up online.

How do I sign up, or get on the county wait list?

Anyone can book an appointment with the Mecklenburg County health department online at https://starmed.care/ or by calling the county COVID-19 hotline at 980-314-9400 (Option 3 for English and Option 8 for Spanish).

If no appointments are available, people can sign up for Mecklenburg County’s waitlist at MeckNC.gov/COVID-19.

What are local grocers doing for workers?

Several grocery store chains are encouraging employees to get vaccinated and also offering incentives.

Matthews-based Harris Teeter is giving $100 to employees who get both shots, and Publix is offering a $125 store gift card. Others, like The Fresh Market and Trader Joe’s, are offering two paid hours for each dose.

“We are doing everything we can to support and accommodate team members’ ability to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Jason Potter, president and CEO of The Fresh Market. The company has 365 Charlotte-area employees and almost 1,800 in North Carolina.

“By helping alleviate barriers to receiving the vaccine, we can continue to provide the safest work environment for our team members, and a safe place to shop for our guests,” he said.

Lidl, which is offering workers $200 in compensation, and accommodating employee schedules for vaccine appointments, found that its employees are eager to get the vaccine. An internal company survey found about eight in 10 employees plan to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available, according to Lidl.

“Lidl has made it a priority to adapt our policies to work better for our people during this pandemic,” said Johannes Fieber, CEO of Lidl US. “We are proud to do so again today to ensure that every team member who wants to get vaccinated is able to do so as soon as possible.”

Who’s next?

After Group 3, the state will begin offering vaccine appointments to certain people in Group 4 starting in three weeks. North Carolina outlined online further details of the initial categories for that group, starting with people with high-risk medical conditions and those in certain congregate-living settings.

Group 4 now includes people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, as well as people with neurologic conditions like dementia.

There were no details yet when other members of that group could start to be vaccinated. But additional categories in Group 4 include other essential workers, such as retail, communications, IT, real estate, finance and energy workers.