The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requesting that specific members of the energy workforce receive the COVID-19 vaccine sooner, moving from Phase 1c to 1b.
In the letter, signed by all FERC commissioners, the agency says, “Over the course of the last year, workers at electric utilities across the country have engaged in heroic efforts to keep the lights on in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their work ensures the functioning of our nation’s critical infrastructure–everything from our telecommunications systems to the hospitals that care for our most vulnerable.”
The vaccine allocation guidance from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices places the energy workforce in Phase 1c. FERC requests that “a subset of the energy workforce … specifically, highly trained electrical field workers, power plant operators, transmission and distribution grid operators, and personnel who procure the energy needed to balance the grid on a moment-to-moment basis” be included in Phase 1b.
In the letter, FERC asserts that, “Those workers’ duties can only be performed on-site, usually in close quarters, where full adherence to social distancing guidelines is impossible. And while these utility employees can be counted as among the most critical among the American workforce, they represent a relatively small population. We understand that the number is likely to be on the order of thousands of workers in each state. As such, we urge you to consider prioritizing these workers as the CDC continues revising its vaccine guidance.”
Currently, Phase 1b includes persons aged 75 and older, as well as frontline essential workers: first responders (e.g., firefighters and police officers), corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.
Phase 1c includes persons aged 65 to 74 years, as well as all other essential workers: workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, public safety (e.g., engineers), and public health workers.