BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Hand sanitizer at the bar is now common at restaurants, vaccinated employees could be common as well, but it will take time.
Currently New York is vaccinating individuals in phases 1A and 1B. The CDC recommends food service workers for phase 1C of vaccination, along with other groups of essential workers.
New York State Restaurant Association President and CEO Melissa Fleischut said the industry is not pushing to get ahead of any phase 1A and 1B groups, but does want the vaccine as soon as possible.
“When we start to see different industries get vaccinated beyond our frontline workers, beyond our population of 65 and above, or even immunocompromised people, when we start to get into specific industries, I think we feel like the food industry should be towards the front of the line because we have been severely impacted by the restrictions and shutdowns and because we are public facing,” she said.
Giacobbi's Cucina Citta manager Alex Jacobbi said if he could get the vaccine tomorrow he would, but frontline workers and the eldelry should remain the priority in phases 1A and 1B.
“We’re willing to wait down the totem pole," Jacobbi said. But if we can get it faster that’d be great, if not we’ll have to wait, but it is what it is.”
When asked whether restaurant workers would be in the current or next rounds of eligibility, Governor Andrew Cuomo said it comes back to supply.
“Yes, I would like to see restaurant workers eligible, it makes total sense, but what does eligibility mean when you don’t have the supply necessary," Cuomo said.
Researchers at University of California, San Francisco found cooks had the highest risk of death during the pandemic when compared to non-pandemic times when looking at essential workers in California.
The study found that bartenders and head chefs also had an increased risk of death.
The study said, however, that other factors could be at play.
“Though non-occupational risk factors may be relevant, it is clear that eliminating COVID-19 will require addressing occupational risks,” the study said.
Cuomo allowed indoor dining to resume at 50% capacity outside of New York City. The 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants is still in place.
Fleischut said restaurants are prioritizing safety measures, but the vaccine is key to safely easing restrictions.
“We're convinced we can do this safely and protect our guests and our employees as they come back to dine-in, but you know having the vaccine kind of takes that variable out of our hands," she said. "We’re doing everything we can, but we need out guests to do everything that they can, and so it would be great to have the vaccine as soon as possible.”
For those already eligible, state run appointments are being booked into mid-April.