With the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both awaiting emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration to fight the spread of COVID-19, it seems there is a very small light at the end of a very long tunnel. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) met last week to decide who would be the first to receive the vaccines once they are available and they have recommended that health care workers and nursing home residents should be the priority. That makes sense. But who should be next?
I say put restaurant workers on the top of that list and hear me out. Throughout this pandemic, restaurants have been in the news constantly because of state and local government’s insistence to shut them down or reduce their occupancy level. “Going out to bars and restaurants is dangerous,” they say. “It’s not safe for the employees or the customers,” they tell us. Restaurants have stayed open in some form for the last several months while restaurant workers and owners have struggled to make enough to pay their bills. If the government feels like restaurants and bars are such a hub for the virus, why not simply shut them all down completely and then pay those workers to stay home? Oh, right, that won’t happen because they already gave us a $1200 stimulus check back in April and that five dollars a day for the last eight months is totally enough to live on. Some workers received an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits for a while, but a lot of people didn’t even get that, so off to work they went risking life and limb to get shitty tips from ungrateful customers.
And speaking of customers, how many of them complained about restaurants not being open enough or bitched about not being able to sit inside with a large party or whined that the menu was too small? Plenty of them did. They didn’t want their constitutional right to order guacamole and margaritas stomped on so they demanded that restaurants stay open.
“Okay, we’ll stay open for you, but you’ll have to wear a mask to enter,” said the restaurants.
“You can’t tell me what to do with my body,” they screamed. “Now bring me my Diet Coke!”
Fine then. If the government doesn’t want to do anything to financially help those of us who are literally and figuratively dying in the restaurant industry and if customers are so hell-bent on having a server deliver them a plate of four cheese mac & cheese with honey pepper tenders, then why not move restaurant and bar employees to the top of the list for the vaccine?
That makes more sense than bank tellers being next in line. Seriously, the American Bankers Association has asked the CDC to designate some of the financial-services industry as essential workers and prioritize them for the vaccine. Ummm, bank tellers wear masks and work behind bullet proof glass while dealing with customers who are also wearing masks. Servers are forced to stand inches away from unmasked customers. Maybe there’s a piece of plexiglass between the booths, but that doesn’t do anything for the one who’s wearing an apron. Besides that, customers can do their banking online. There is no ATM for a burger and fries.
Anyone who has the option to work from home should also fall down a notch or two on the list of vaccine prioritization. Yeah, I’m sure office workers are exhausted with virtual Zoom meetings with their boss, but they can stay at home and still work. A bartender doesn’t have that option. Teachers have been working from home, but let’s go ahead and move them up the list too. Kids need to be in classrooms, not just to learn reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, but to also master social interactions and how to be little human beings away from their parents.
These vaccines could eventually lead us back to a life of normalcy, although what is normal now? Wearing masks will never seem weird again. We’ll probably always be aware of washing our hands more often and social distancing will forever be in the back of our minds. But the one thing that that people most often say they miss about pre-COVID days is going out to eat with friends and/or socializing at bars. So, let’s make sure that those of us in the service industry can help bring back that little slice of normal and be safe while doing it. Most of us who work in restaurants do it because we love it, but that doesn’t mean we want to get a case of the ‘rona while getting customers a side of Ranch dressing. Allowing restaurant and bar employees to get the vaccine as soon as possible will get the entire service industry back on its feet and finally allow us to feel safe while serving.
The service industry deserves and needs this vaccine as soon as possible. Period.