Some restaurant workers frustrated they don’t qualify for COVID-19 vaccine

Café Frank in Charlottesville
Updated: Mar. 18, 2021 at 3:14 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - As the Blue Ridge Health District (BRHD) expands vaccinations into the Virginia Department of Health’s Phase 1b, some restaurant workers are disappointed that they’re listed as Phase 1c.

“I think if there’s any industry that’s vulnerable to this virus right now, it’s ours,” Charlottesville restaurant owner Daniel Kaufman said.

As restaurants in Charlottesville keep their doors open, business owners are asking BRHD to include food service workers in Phase 1b.

“I think between us and dentistry, we’re the only industries left dealing with unmasked people on a day-to-day basis to perform our jobs right now,” Kaufman said.

According to VDH, food service workers qualify to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1c. However, health districts in the greater-Richmond area bumped food service workers up to Phase 1b earlier this month.

“I think the local health districts should take a cue from other health districts here in Virginia, like Alexandria or Richmond, who realize the vulnerability of hospitality workers that have since promoted them to 1b so they can get vaccinated faster,” Kaufman said.

A spokesperson for BRHD says it’s following guidance from VDH and that, “given the large number of individuals that qualify under 1a and 1b in our district and our current vaccine supply, we are not able to move restaurant workers from 1c to 1b at this time.”

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health says, “the decision to move from one phase to the next is made in coordination with local and state health officials and is dependent upon a variety of factors, including whether vaccine demand decreases despite strong efforts to engage eligible populations, particularly among those who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

“We’ve been fighting the good fight during this whole time,” Charlottesville restaurant owner Wilson Richey said.

Richey owns Café Frank and other restaurants in Charlottesville.

“It would be good to see our group of workers be a priority,” Richey said.

He wants his staff protected as they put their health on the line every day.

“Certainly, there’s a hierarchy of need. Clearly elderly and first responder workers are at the top, but you know once we get down to the community level, the restaurants are open,” Richey said.

Kaufman says his staff has been pre-registered since it opened, and now they’re just waiting to qualify.

“We’re playing this as safe as we possibly can, but this is the missing piece to make this totally safe again and we’d like it as soon as possible,” Kaufman said.

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