GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s been almost a year since traditional classroom learning took a backseat in Mississippi due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So much of education is about relationships and being able to talk to people, and sometimes six feet is a long ways away from each other,” said Gulfport School District Superintendent Glen East.
However, after 11 months of virtual lessons and social distancing, things are looking up for the Magnolia State’s teachers.
Gov. Tate Reeves announced on Feb. 23 two new groups are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine - educators and first responders.
In addition to the other groups of qualified people, the Mississippi State Department of Health lists teachers, staff and employees in K-12, preschool or childcare settings as eligible for the vaccine. All first responders, including law enforcement, public safety, fire and emergency service personnel also qualify for doses.
“Hopefully, that will put some of our officers at ease,” Gulfport Police Chief Chris Ryle said. “They’re going out everyday interacting with the public. and you never know who has COVID.”
The news is a relief not only to those behind the badge and those in the classroom, but also the people around them.
“We’re looking forward to the future in helping our children and our community remain healthy,” said Pascagoula-Gautier School District Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich.
While leaders in both qualifying groups said they are glad to take one more step toward normalcy, they also said that they understand the pandemic isn’t over just yet.
“We will still be vigilant in mask wearing and social distancing and our cleaning protocols,” Rodolfich said.
While the vaccine isn’t a requirement for most, if any, agencies, officials expect to see high demand.
“I think you are going to see a majority of teachers in our district will sign up and get the vaccination,” East said.
In the meantime, the focus is on keeping everyone safe until it’s time to roll up their sleeves.
“We’ve got to take care of our workforce. If we have officers out sick that means patrol shifts may be short but we need to keep our officers healthy,” Ryle said.
Teachers and first responders can now schedule appointments to get a vaccine. Appointments start on March 1. Appointments can be made as soon as they are open by calling 1-877-978-6453 or online on the MSDH website.