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NC frontline essential workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccine starting Wednesday

North Carolina is moving swiftly with getting shots into arms, so all those under Group 3 can sign up for the shot starting Wednesday, March 3.

RALEIGH, N.C. — All frontline essential workers in North Carolina will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting Wednesday, March 3, Gov. Roy Cooper announced during a COVID-19 task force briefing Tuesday. Vaccinations will be open to all people under Group 3, which include grocery store workers, restaurant workers, first responders, farmworkers and more. 

State leaders also announced people in Group 4 will be able to get the vaccine starting March 24. Group 4 includes those at higher risk from COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions as well as people in certain congregate-living settings. 

Cooper said the decision to bump up vaccine eligibility comes as North Carolina moves swiftly with getting shots into arms, and many providers are ready to move to the next phase. 

“The state and our providers continue to work extremely hard to get people vaccinated in a way that’s fast and fair,” said Gov. Cooper. “The third vaccine and improving vaccine supply will help us get more people vaccinated more quickly. Our essential frontline workers have remained on the job throughout this pandemic and I am grateful for their work.”

More than 80,000 Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccines will be shipped to providers across the state this week, pumping up North Carolina's vaccine efforts even more. 

Group 3 vaccinations were originally broken up into two parts, starting with teachers and childcare workers. The remaining Group 3 workers would have had to wait until March 10 to sign up for the vaccine. Now, they'll get to sign up a week earlier than planned.  

You can watch the full update on our YouTube page

Last week, Cooper eased restrictions on business capacity. It’s still too early to see any data impact from the loosened restrictions, but we’re likely seeing a vaccine correlation with decreases in key metrics like cases and hospitalizations.

RELATED: 24/7 mass vaccine site coming to Greensboro March 10

Tuesday’s data showed labs confirmed more than 1,200 new cases and 5.7% of tests conducted in the past couple of days were positive for COVID-19. The goal – to indicate the virus is spreading at a slower rate – is 5% or two-straight weeks.

The virus is still causing many North Carolinians to get seriously ill. More than 1,300 people are in hospitals with COVID-19, including 82 patients at Cone Health as of midnight Tuesday.

Statewide hospitalizations peaked just shy of 4,000 on January 13. Since then, hospitalizations have declined statewide and on the local level. Cone Health will close its Green Valley COVID-19 hospital to new patients on March 5. The main hospital campuses will treat future COVID-19 patients.

Watch Gov. Cooper's full briefing.