San Francisco officials announced on Tuesday, February 9, that the city is expected to enter the next stage in California’s vaccination plan by February 24, which means that workers at the city’s restaurants will be eligible to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within two weeks.
According to an announcement sent by the city, “starting February 24, COVID-19 vaccines will be offered to individuals identified as eligible in Phase 1B, Tier 1 of California’s population prioritization plan for vaccine administration.” Those eligible include “people who work in education and childcare, emergency services, and food and agriculture sectors,” as well as those who are already being vaccinated — that is, health care workers and people over the age of 65.
At a press conference on Tuesday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax confirmed that the “food and agriculture sector” designation includes employees at restaurants, including cooks, servers, dishwashers, bartenders, and more. “Getting people who live and work in San Francisco vaccinated as quickly as possible is our top priority,” Breed said in a statement. “We’re looking ahead to the next phase and are making sure we’re ready to vaccinate workers quickly so they can safely be out in the city serving the community.”
The news was applauded by San Francisco’s dining lobby, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA). “We are pleased to hear that San Francisco will be opening vaccination appointments” to restaurant workers within weeks, as they “have faced some of the highest infection rates during the epidemic.”
According to the GGRA, details on the restaurant worker vaccination plan are still scarce, but “we will work with our community to provide the information that our workers need to gain access to appointments.” According to city officials, as of February 24, restaurant workers can sign up for vaccination appointments via this city-run website. Prior to that, anyone, regardless of profession, can sign up for a notification to alert them of vaccination eligibility.
There are about 115,000 people within those job sectors, officials say, in addition to the 210,000 people who work in health care or are over 65, who are eligible for vaccination at present. According to city officials, the city’s oldest residents will continue to be the first vaccine priority because “they carry the highest risk of hospitalization and death of any population in the city.”
Of course, as everyone who has been following the vaccination effort knows, one of the biggest challenges has been vaccine availability. It’s an issue that Colefax acknowledges, warning that “vaccine supply remains extremely limited” but that “we are making progress.” On Tuesday, Breed said that San Francisco has the capacity to deliver over 10,000 vaccines a day, between healthcare providers and mass vaccination clinics like the one that opened at Moscone Center last week.
Given the limited supply of doses, however, SF has only been averaging arounf 4,000 doses per day. That means that at present, only 12 percent of San Francisco resident have gotten the first dose of the vaccine thus far, Colfax says. About 3 percent have received both doses.
“As we expand vaccine eligibility to those in Phase 1B, Tier 1,” Colfax says, “we will offer protection to individuals who have supported and protected our city throughout the pandemic.” It’s an effort that the GGRA says is “an additional crucial step on the road to recovery for both the restaurant community and San Francisco as a whole.”