MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The number of people eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in Wisconsin is about to grow.
Teachers and child care workers will have priority for the vaccine starting Monday, part of a group of 700,000 people who will be newly eligible, as about half of those over age 65 have been inoculated so far, the state Department of Health Services said Thursday.
Others who become eligible Monday include people enrolled in Medicaid long-term care programs; grocery store workers; bus drivers; 911 dispatchers; mink farmers; prison inmates; non-essential health care workers; and staff in shared housing situations such as condominiums, student dorms and prisons.
State health officials estimate that teachers and child care workers will take priority in March and early April, while the others will be vaccinated in April and May.
“Everyone included in these newly eligible groups will eventually have the opportunity to get vaccinated, but we are asking everyone to practice patience and wait to schedule an appointment in order to allow those at higher risk to get vaccinated first,” said Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake.
Nearly half of those over age 65 have been vaccinated so far, and those who have yet to get their shot will continue to have priority even as teachers and others become eligible, the health department said.
Wisconsin’s allocation of doses from the federal government has increased. Wisconsin is getting 90,000 shots a week, more than 60% higher than in January, and this week Walgreens outlets saw their supply double to 36,000 doses.
A third, single-dose vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson was expected to win final regulatory approval for use in the United States within days.
Wisconsin is launching a vaccine registration website on Monday where people can sign up to get shots and find out where vaccinations are available. People can also learn about vaccine availability by contacting their local health care provider, Walgreens or by checking their local public health department website.
There are more than 1,800 vaccinators across Wisconsin.
Positive COVID-19 cases had been on the decline in Wisconsin for more than a month before leveling off and slowly increasing this week. Even so, the seven-day average of new cases at its lowest point since early July. More than 561,000 Wisconsin residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 6,342 have died of the disease since the pandemic started.
Wisconsin’s vaccination rate was 15th highest nationally, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. As of Wednesday, 15.1% of Wisconsin’s population, nearly 826,000 people, have received at least one dose. That was ahead of the national average of 13.6%.
More than 386,000 residents have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, or about 6.6% of Wisconsin’s population, the state health department said.
Also on Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers announced a new $322 million federally funded program that provides money to Wisconsin residents who need help paying for rent and utilities due to income loss caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Eligible applicants must demonstrate a risk of losing their housing or lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or have a household income at or below 80% of the county median average, Evers’ office said. Rental and utility payments are made directly to the landlord or utility provider.
For a couple, that is no more than $5,233 a month in Dane County, $4,392 in Brown County, $4,100 in La Crosse County and $4,471 in Milwaukee County.
The Evers administration is partnering with Wisconsin Community Action agencies and Energy Services, Inc. to accept applications and distribute the money. Residents of Brown, Dane, Milwaukee, and Waukesha Counties and the cities of Madison and Milwaukee can apply directly to their local government’s rental assistance provider, the governor’s office said.