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Michigan, NYC set preliminary schedules for vaccinating restaurant workers

Employees in Michigan may have to wait until May, while New York City staff members could get a first shot during the first quarter.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurant workers in Michigan may have to wait until May before being asked to roll up a sleeve for the COVID-19 vaccine, while their counterparts in New York City could get the shots starting in February, according to tentative schedules just released by health officials.

All connected parties stress that the variables make a precise start date difficult to pinpoint for any targeted groups except those with the highest priorities, such as healthcare workers. But the general outlines issued yesterday and today provide a rough timeline for frontline or essential workers, the category into which restaurant workers have been lumped.

The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS) said that group should start receiving the first of two inoculation shots in May, with the process continuing through the end of 2021. Food workers are included in the same class as agricultural employees and persons aged 18 to 64 who are at higher risk because of pre-existing health conditions.

“This guidance may change as information evolves and more vaccine types become available,” the MDHHS said in airing the schedule yesterday.

In addition, the agency said, the plan could be adjusted to give priority to workers in areas that have a particularly high rate of new infections.

It also indicated that more precise dates will be set as the vaccination progress proceeds. The state has an overall goal of inoculating at least 70% of its population—some 5.6 million residents—by the end of 2021. Federal health officials have said that 70% to 85%  of a population needs to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to reach herd immunity, or the point where the virus dies out because of a shortage of new hosts.

New York City indicated in releasing its tentative schedule that the state will ultimately determine whether restaurant workers qualify as “frontline essential workers” or “other essential workers.” The former group will start receiving their shots next month, while the latter will have to wait until March or April, according to the New York City Department of Health. The agency noted that the general population of the city are likely not be inoculated until mid-year.

Both jurisdictions indicated that vaccines will be administered by appointment, and urge all workers to rely on employers for a detailed schedule.

Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, D.C., indicated earlier this week that foodservice employees would start receiving vaccines on Feb. 1.





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