New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that restaurant workers in the state are now eligible to receive the vaccine.
Cuomo said local governments can add restaurant workers, taxi drivers, and workers at developmentally disabled facilities to Phase 1b if it fits into their prioritization. Currently, Phase 1a includes healthcare workers and Phase 1b includes individuals 65 and older, grocery store workers, first responders, teachers, public transit, and homeless shelters.
“Some localities have already done a large percentage of their police, their fire, their teachers. And they do have flexibility,” Cuomo said during a press conference. “There is no one size fits all here. Yes we have statewide priorities, which is set by the federal government, but if a local government is now getting more, and they believe in their local circumstance they want to prioritize taxi drivers, Uber drivers because they think that’s been a problem, or developmentally disabled facilities or restaurant workers, they have that flexibility.”
The comments are a stark turnaround from Monday, when Cuomo noted, “Of course I want restaurant workers to be eligible. I think everyone should be eligible, but the realistic situation is that we just don’t have the supplies.” To his point, 7.1 million New Yorkers are eligible for the vaccine, but the state is administering 300,000 doses per week.
However, Cuomo said Tuesday that the federal government plans to increase supply by 20 percent for three weeks. So far, 1.6 million have received a first dose and 385,927 have received both doses. Roughly 75 percent of healthcare workers have been vaccinated.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that he was in favor of the move. NYC is scheduled to bring back indoor dining on Valentine’s Day if positivity rates continue to lower.
“The restaurant workers now are going to be in enclosed places with people eating and drinking. And every doctor on this line or any place else will say, that's an area of concern,” de Blasio said during a press conference. We have to protect the people working in our restaurants. So now that the State has made this decision, it follows that we have to protect those workers and they should be added to the 1b category.”
New York has seen 25 straight days of decline in the positivity rate. As of February 1, the seven-day average was 4.95 percent, which is the first time the state’s average has been below 5 percent since December 6.
“Since COVID-19 struck New York City, restaurant workers have been heroes on the frontlines interacting with the public to sustain our city’s food supply, feeding our most vulnerable populations and helping maintain some sense of normalcy in our communities by offering limited dining options,”said Andrew Rigie, NYC Hospitality Alliance executive director, in a statement. “Restaurant workers have been essential to our city during the pandemic, and we applaud Governor Cuomo for expanding vaccine 1B eligibility requirements to include them. The NYC Hospitality Alliance is committed to advocating for our industry, and is ready and willing to support vaccine education and outreach to the restaurant community immediately upon its availability to these essential workers.”