Should restaurant and bar employees be made eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Onondaga County has decided to push back the possibility of making restaurant and bar employees, taxi drivers, and rideshare drivers eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine until at least the middle of February. 

For the first time, New York State gave the choice to counties on if those groups could become eligible. If a county said yes, it would start next week. 

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon says all decisions made are based on the data. Right now, the focus is on getting senior citizens eligible. 

“Everyone who died [Thursday] fits the model that I am talking about,” McMahon said. “These are people that if they had the vaccine they are not going to die. And this is what this is about. This is the tool to stop the death and we need to give it to the people who fit those brackets first.”

The owner of Wunderbar, Tanner Efinger, says he has been calling the county executive’s office for days trying to get him to make employees like his eligible. 

“The reality and the facts are that people who can stay home are safer than people who cannot stay home,” Efinger said “And the people who can’t stay home are the ones reliant on their jobs to be in person, like restaurant workers.”

NewsChannel 9 spoke with several brewery, bar, and restaurant owners about this issue. Almost all of them said senior citizens should have the priority and that they were willing to wait. 

We asked Efinger why he appears to be in the minority about this issue. 

It is complicated to look at the elderly who are vulnerable and say you need to prioritize someone more than them. That is a horrible situation, and it is a horrible thing to say and I want to be clear that is not what I am saying. But I don’t think that is the choice given. Priority to seniors or restaurant workers. I don’t think it is one or the other. I think there are strategies to consider, which take into consideration to show how complicated this situation is, but I don’t think the county executive is taking those strategies into consideration.

Tanner Efinger — Owner of Wunderbar

McMahon said Thursday he has heard from “maybe one” bar or restaurant that disagrees with the decision to hold off on making employees eligible. 

As of Thursday, there was still very little vaccine available to Onondaga County and there still remains a large number of senior citizens who are waiting for their first appointments to be scheduled. 

“This is the tool we have to save lives. Are your employees the most at risk? If they are over 65 we believe they are and they qualify,” McMahon said.  “If they are younger,  if they are my age or younger, they are not the most at risk for getting sick and dying. The data says that.

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