Dear Governor Cuomo,
You announced this week that indoor dining in New York City could begin again on Sunday February 14th. Usually, Valentine’s Day is a pretty busy night in a restaurant, but could it be even busier this year? After weeks of takeout and outdoor dining in frigid weather being the only options, customers might swarm to restaurants on that Sunday eager for a chance to eat inside a restaurant again. That, coupled with the lovebirds who would normally go out on the 14th of February, might make that first shift a doozy. Well, 25% of a doozy, anyway.
This brings me to the topic of the vaccine. More specifically, when do restaurant workers get it? According to the New York State Covid-19 vaccine eligibility guidelines, the next phase of 1b is supposed to start in February and those who will be able to get the vaccine are “other frontline essential workers (to be determined by New York State).” Well, February is in just a couple of days, sir. If you are expecting us restaurant workers to go back to our jobs in just over two weeks, it seems like NOW would be a good time to decide who those “other frontline essential workers” are and that restaurant workers should be included in that group.
Think about it: waiters and waitresses are working within close proximity to people who aren’t wearing masks. That can’t be good. The only other profession I can think of that are in that same situation are dentists and they were eligible for the vaccine weeks ago. If you allow restaurant workers to get the vaccine on February 1, that gives us two weeks for the antibodies to settle in so we can slap those aprons back on by February 14th and start serving over-priced romantic dinners for two on Valentine’s Day. The timing could not be more perfect, but we need the state to determine who those other frontline essential workers are. And by “the state” I mean you and by “other frontline workers” I mean me.
Those of us in the food and beverage industry are ready to go back to work, we really are, but we want to feel safe when we do it. Aren’t we owed that? After all, our industry is the one that has been closed, then reopened, then closed, then reopened again, each time with changing guidelines and expectations that are almost impossible to keep up with. We don’t have the opportunity to work from home, so instead we’ve been losing money by gong to work and doing takeout orders for little or no tips OR bundling up in coats, gloves and scarves in order to serve food outside to customers who get to sit inches away from a propane heater. We deserve a break. We deserve the vaccine.
Mr. Cuomo, please determine that restaurant workers are in the next group to receive the vaccine on February 1. Health care workers, nursing home residents, 65 and older, grocery store workers, first responders, correction officers, educators, and public transit workers have all had their chance and now it should be our turn. For months, the general public has been clamoring about their insistence that restaurants and bars stay open. It’s literally their only form of entertainment outside of Netflix. Restaurant workers have been going to their jobs in order to provide this tiny slice of normalcy and in doing so, we’ve also been risking our health. It would be nice to hear a thank you every once in a. while. And it would be even nicer to be able to go to work on February 14th and know that we are protected.
Mustard and mayo,
The Bitchy Waiter