ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — With additional vaccine doses expected in the coming weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is now allowing counties to vaccinate restaurant employees, taxi drivers, as well as people at developmentally disabled facilities, if the counties choose to do so.
Local restaurant owner, Dominick Purnomo, said he believes vaccinating those in the food industry is essential.
“Restaurants are the only place where you’re going to be unmasked. It seemed like 1B or even 1A is where we should have been originally slated. Happy to see that restaurant workers and the food service workers that have been on the frontlines since the beginning have the ability to get vaccinated,” explained Purnomo, who is also the Director of the New York State Restaurant Association.
Since COVID-19 vaccines are in high demand, Warren County’s Director of Public Affairs, Don Lehman said getting more of them is wonderful news.
“As long as these groups understand that it’s kinda out of our control at the county level what we can do, it’s great to have a pool of people who are eligible. That way, when the supplies do loosen up here, there won’t be any problems getting people who want it,” said Lehman.
This week, both Warren and Rensselaer counties received 300 doses, which is not nearly as many as needed.
“We did assume all along that eventually the vaccine production is going to get bigger and bigger, and we will get more vaccines, so that’s welcomed news,” stated Rensselaer County Executive, Steve McLaughlin. “As far as 1B being expanded, quite honestly, that’s ridiculous.”
McLaughlin said Rensselaer County doesn’t have enough vaccines available for those who are in the 1A category and those who have been eligible in the 1B category, such as teachers and police officers.
“When I have 65, 75, 80, 90 year-olds with severe health conditions, that I don’t have vaccines for, it makes absolutely no sense to add taxi drivers and restaurant workers to the mix,” said McLaughlin. “It’s not that we don’t want to give them a shot, it’s that we don’t have the shots to give.”
While every county needs more doses, the governor said each county is in a slightly different position based on its population.
Joshua Turo, a manager at Yono’s restaurant in Albany, said vaccinating restaurant workers is not only beneficial to them health-wise, but it could help the industry as a whole.
“I think it’s going to be a reassurance policy for not just restaurant employees, but also the guests coming into the restaurant,” said Turo. “It’s going to give them more of a sense of security to come out to eat, and encourage people to come out to eat a little bit more which, right now all restaurants direly need.”