COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
As vaccine distribution continues across Mid-Missouri, a small group of Columbia Public Schools employees are able to sign up for a shot.
A spokeswoman for the district confirmed that 216 employees are now able to sign up to receive a vaccine from Boone Hospital. Those eligible are school nurses and special education staff with "medically fragile" students in-person.
In an email to teachers, the district said Boone Hospital has 150 vaccine doses available for that group right now, so not everyone in the group will be vaccinated right away. Employees who can receive the vaccine have been notified.
This is a part of the state's first phase of distribution to health care workers. Chief Medical Officer for Boone Hospital Robin Blount said the health care system has been working with CPS to get the vaccine out as soon as possible.
"We've got to get as many people vaccinated as possible," Blount said. "We know how important it is to get schools back open, face to face learning for teachers and kids is just so invaluable."
The 150 employees that will be able to be vaccinated is just a fraction of the nearly 3,000 employees at Columbia Public Schools.
"It's obviously a huge first step, but this isn't over," Blount said. "Frankly we've got months to deal with this, I'm hoping it's months and not a year."
She said the next phase of the state's vaccination plan will include teachers, but there is no word on when the Missouri Health Department will greenlight the next phase.
"It's really in their hands, and it's whether or not the state gets enough vaccine to start rolling it out to the next level," Blount said. "But when you go to 1B (second phase) you are talking about a huge number of people."
The next phase for distributions includes teachers, first responders, other professionals, in addition to older individuals with underlying health issues. Blount said this will be a large undertaking, and Boone Hospital doesn't have many plans in place yet.
There's going to have to be some larger public health planning as far as getting large vaccination clinics sites, drive through vaccinations, but I have not seen any of those plans yet," Blount said.
She said the hospital will be working closely with the local health department on this effort saying they will be able
Co-president of Columbia Missouri State Teachers Association and elementary school teacher Ariel Schwarting said this is an exciting step for the district. She said in a survey by CMSTA, a majority of teachers said they would feel more comfortable returning to in-person learning with the vaccine.
"I think that vaccine is going to play a big part in putting people at ease making people feel comfortable in coming back," Schwarting said.
The district sent out a survey to teachers, and a spokeswoman for the district said an overwhelming majority of faculty and staff plans on getting the vaccine when it is more widely available.
Schwarting said teachers she has spoken with a split on whether or not they are ready to return back to in-person learning.
"I think a lot of teachers are at the point where they want to be back in the classroom," Schwarting said. "But maybe having that extra layer of protection of getting the vaccine prior to having students back it just what they need to really feel safe and comfortable in that environment."
The next Columbia Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Monday. The board will likely discuss whether or not to return students to the classroom.
The 14-day tracker is just one tool CPS uses to determine if students will return to in-class learning. Currently, the 14-day rate is 73.3, a drop of 1 from Wednesday.
According to the staff tracker, there is 19 staff with coronavirus and 26 that are quarantined due to the virus. There are 35 students with confirmed COVID-19 cases and 61 in quarantine.