COVID-19

Restaurant workers in D.C. next up for vaccination

Jasmine Garsd Jan 8, 2021
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A waiter serves customers at a restaurant. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Restaurant workers in D.C. next up for vaccination

Jasmine Garsd Jan 8, 2021
Heard on:
A waiter serves customers at a restaurant. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
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Throughout the pandemic, restaurant workers have found themselves in a difficult position: in order to make money, they have to expose themselves to patrons who take their masks off to eat, drink, and sometimes even just chat.

Now, if you are a restaurant worker in Washington, D.C., you will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination in February. Most other cities are prioritizing frontline and health care workers, as well as the elderly and other at risk groups. 

Allison Lane, a bartender at several different places in Washington, D.C, says it’s a good sign. Even with the pandemic raging, she says patrons waiting for food and drink “decided that is was OK to take off your mask if you’re sitting down at a table. It’s like, ‘OK … so the virus stops if you’re sitting down?’  Which puts servers like her at risk, many times a day. Lane says vaccinating restaurant workers, “definitely is an acknowledgment that restaurant workers are important,  and we are often exposed to disease without any health insurance.”

Vaccines won’t just protect the health of workers, they could be key to rebuilding the health of the restaurant industry. 

More than 100,000 restaurants have closed temporarily or for good since the pandemic began. Hundreds of thousands of restaurant workers have lost their jobs. And millions of people have stopped eating out. 

William Wheaton, an economist at MIT., says “without a restaurant industry it is really hard for cities to survive. That’s, you know, half the reason why people live in cities.”

It’s a good first start, but there’s more work to do to protect restaurant workers, says Sekou Siby, who heads up Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an advocacy group.  He says the health of people handling our food is critical to combatting the pandemic. “We have always considered restaurant workers health care as a public health issue. So the D.C. ordinance is something that is very exciting news for us.”

Siby says he hopes other cities and states will follow D.C.’s lead. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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