Joy Hofmeister said she is grateful for public school teachers and staff moving up the vaccine distribution priority list, a change Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday.
Teachers and staff in K-12 schools will be vaccinated alongside other groups in Phase 2 of the state vaccination plan. Previously, they were in Phase 3.
Other groups in the second phase include first responders, those in prisons and jails, government officials and more. The groups will start to receive doses of the vaccine concurrently as it becomes available in early 2021, according to Health Commissioner Lance Frye.
“We are grateful that the teachers in K-12 have been lifted on that priority list,” Hofmeister said. “But at the same time, we need to remember that it is going to take a while for the vaccine to have the kind of protection across communities.”
Masking, social distancing and hand hygiene are still necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, she said.
Following the change in vaccine distribution, Stitt said at a news conference he wants every school district in the state to offer in-person classes in January.
“Students are struggling academically and also emotionally from being away from their classmates,” Stitt said. “This needs to happen as soon as possible. It's a non-negotiable for me”
Stitt said he had pleaded with officials at Tulsa and Oklahoma City Public Schools, two large school districts that chose to conduct virtual classes only because of the pandemic.