Restaurant employees in Colorado at the moment are getting their vaccines after meals and farm employees

As shuttered restaurants slowly reopened and food restrictions allowed more customers in Colorado dining rooms, nearly 300,000 Colorado food service workers learned on Friday that they would not receive the vaccine as originally planned on March 5th.

Governor Jared Polis announced that due to supply shortages, the state would delay vaccinations for some key workers, including restaurant workers. Meanwhile, the frontline farm and grocery store workers are well on their way to being vaccinated starting March 5th.

Vaccinations for restaurant workers and others in the newly created 1B.4 phase should begin around March 21, Polis said. The restaurant industry’s place in the vaccine rollout schedule has become a point of contention.

“Our primary concern is the health and safety of our employees who provide essential meals to Coloradans as well as grocers,” said Sonia Riggs, CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, in a statement responding to the changed schedule. “Splitting food and restaurant workers into two phases makes no sense.”

Some states do not differentiate between subcategories of food workers in their vaccination schedules, although supply shortages across the country are already causing delays as more groups become eligible.

The division of the major Colorado workforce will allow 1 million Coloradans to be vaccinated in early March, while an additional 2.5 million will be eligible if the state’s vaccine supply increases later this month.

“It’s disappointing to say the least,” said Maggie Maxwell, who has been a restaurant manager for five years and a bartender and waitress for much longer.

Maxwell said she was concerned that the restaurants’ customer capacity continued to grow while workers were not being vaccinated. In Denver, considering her next career move, restaurants are on the verge of further easing restrictions under the Level Blue guidelines. Moving the state’s COVID-19 dial would move the last call from 11 p.m. to midnight, where it is now under the yellow level.

Maxwell and others in the industry say they are seeing more guests relax while loosening restrictions, especially as spring approaches.

“Not to mention the fact that alcohol in our venues makes guests exercise caution,” she said. “I bet there are never too many drunks in the grocery stores at any point.”

Beth Hardin, a general manager of the pub, summed up her frustration with the delay.

“(Restaurant workers) cannot work from home and are in constant, close contact with the unmasked public … (they) likely have sub-zero health insurance, no benefits, and if they don’t work they don’t get paid,” said you.

But Gordon Cresswell works as a server in Denver’s bustling LoHi neighborhood, and he accepts the delay for now.

“It is what it is. I know older people who still can’t get a vaccine,” he said. “I’m not worried about myself, (I) just don’t want to be a carrier so I will keep washing my hands … and wearing a religious mask. “

On behalf of the restaurant association, Riggs expressed concern about the uncertainty of the further vaccination process.

“Until last week we believed our workers would be vaccinated starting this week,” she said. “The goalposts keep moving …”

And from the position of the state, Conor Cahill, Polis’ press secretary, put the latest speedbump in perspective.

“Every Coloradan deserves the life-saving vaccine, and any Coloradan who wants it will soon be able to get it,” he said, “but we’re not getting enough for everyone to get it right away.”

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