Pa. coronavirus update: State to open 30 vaccine clinics for school staff; Penn Relays canceled

Pa. plans to operate nearly 30 COVID-19 vaccination clinics to inoculate school teachers and support staff, including bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

A student, wearing a face mask, sits at an isolated desk at school

A student sits at an isolated desk in a Philadelphia classroom. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Updated 4:37 p.m.

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As part of a special state initiative, Pennsylvania plans to operate nearly 30 COVID-19 vaccination clinics to inoculate school teachers and support staff, including bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

The clinics are expected to open March 10-13 and vaccinate between 500 and 1,000 employees a day, depending on the site.

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Participants will receive the newly-approved one-shot vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson.

“These clinics will be staffed by trained medical personnel, as well as other support or non-clinical staff to provide for maximum efficiency,” said Randy Padfield, acting director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, during a Thursday news conference.

The “closed” clinics, the locations of which have not been announced, will operate daily and will not be open to the general public.

Each school will be responsible for scheduling appointments for its staffers.

Those appointments will be scheduled with the help of an online scheduling tool provided by the state, “which will make it easier to regulate the flow of individuals through the clinic,” said Padfied.

Earlier this week, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration announced a plan to vaccinate all teachers and school staffers in Pennsylvania so that kids can go back to school safety. The goal is to have employees inoculated against COVID-19 by mid-April.

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Under the plan, pre-K and elementary school teachers and staff, as well as those who teach students with disabilities and English language learners, will be prioritized.

Wolf estimates there are about 200,000 teachers in the state, though it’s unclear how many of them have already received the vaccine for other reasons.

The administration’s plan will also vaccinate child care workers through a partnership with a trio of pharmacies — Rite-Aid, Walmart, and Topco. Those appointments will be scheduled directly with the pharmacy, said Padfield.

Penn Relays canceled — again

For the second year in a row, the Penn Relays, the nation’s oldest and largest track and field competition, is being canceled due the coronavirus pandemic. The University of Pennsylvania, which hosts the event each year, instead plans to host three one-day competitions — if health conditions on campus and in the city continue to improve.

“It is disappointing that we once again have to cancel one of the landmark events of the spring in Philadelphia in track and field, but collectively we want to ensure the safety of our athletes, campus, community, and spectators,” said Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, director of recreation and intercollegiate athletics at Penn, in a statement.

If possible, the Penn Relays will host a local collegiate-only track and field meet on April 24 that “is consistent with the Ivy League Council of Presidents’ parameters regarding spring sport competition,” according to a release.

The Penn Relays also plans on hosting a meet for open and professional athletes in the “coming months,” as well as a scholastic meet this summer.

“We are extremely disappointed to cancel the Penn Relays for a second year,” said Dave Johnson, the Frank Dolson Director of the Penn Relays. “At the same time, we feel a strong obligation to the local track and field community to provide as much competition as safely as possible during the course of the spring and summer.”

The Penn Relays has been hosted every year since 1895 at Franklin Field in West Philly. It was the first invitational track meet “to prosper that welcomed all races and all schools from the outside and without interruption,” according to the event’s website.

In addition to collegiate-level races, the meet features junior high school events, as well as individual events featuring acclaimed post-collegiate athletes.

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