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Washington addresses the Vivace paradox, adds restaurant workers to COVID-19 vaccine eligibility ranks starting March 31st

Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington health officials are solving the Vivace paradox: How can you allow restaurants and cafes to reopen with increased indoor seating capacity without making sure the workers who serve those un-masked eating and drinking customers are eligible for vaccination?

The answer is you can’t so, come March 31st, restaurant workers will join the ranks of the essential workers who formally qualify for COVID-19 vaccination in Washington.

Inslee announced the change Thursday. People 60 to 64 and those experiencing homelessness that live in or access services at shelters and congregate settings will also be eligible.

CHS reported here on the dilemma faced by Capitol Hill-headquartered Cafe Vivace and restaurants and cafes across the Hill as COVID-19 restrictions lifted but food and drink workers were not included in the state’s current vaccination phase.

“The Seattle Restaurant Alliance celebrates today’s news that restaurant workers will soon be able to get the vaccine,” Linda Di Lello Morton, alliance president and owner of Capitol Hill restaurant Terra Plata, said. “While we believe restaurant workers should be eligible now with other ‘essential workers,’ a date certain within the next two weeks is a critical win. Additionally, the diversity of the restaurant community will enhance equity in distribution of the vaccine. We have been working with the Washington Hospitality Association on this issue for months, and we want to thank the thousands of people who signed our petition in support of this effort. Together, we made a difference, and restaurant workers will now be able to get the vaccine at the end of this month.”

Starting Monday, March 22nd, loosened COVID-19 restrictions will include allowing restaurants to increase the number of inside diners they serve to 50% capacity after just over a month of capacity capped at 25% after February’s Phase 2 reopening. Large counties like King County with more than 50,000 residents must maintain a 14-day average of new COVID cases at or below 200 per 100,000 residents, and a seven-day average of new hospitalizations per 100,000 at five or fewer to remain in Phase 3. The new phase will also bring looser restrictions on large gatherings including professional and youth sports and “other outdoor spectator events” including professional sports.

The changes come as the state’s vaccinated population continues to increase and key COVID-19 metrics show the spread of the virus has dropped to rates not seen since early fall.

The largest civilian-led vaccination site in the nation has opened in the event center at Seattle’s Lumen Field. The massive 190,000-square-foot center is hoped to eventually scale up to serving around 150,000 people a week as officials look to push the city’s vaccination rate to 70%, the level believed to be necessary for Seattle to fully emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.

Most Washingtonians fall into a “future phases” plan currently slated to run from May through at least December 2021. But things are clearly accelerating. At this point, the state’s infographics are having a hard time keeping up with the changes.

Seattle officials say efforts to reach vulnerable residents including communities of color have been successful here with at least 65% of those 65 years old and older in all parts of the city receiving at least one shot of vaccine.

In King County, just over 28% of the population has now received at least one vaccine shot. Meanwhile, despite efforts to reach the communities, People of Color groups continue to lag the county’s white population in the rate of vaccination.

 

Officials say existing vaccine supply will initially limit Seattle’s mega site at Lumen to operating two to three days a week, serving approximately 5,000 people weekly. The site is “prepared to significantly ramp up in April and May into the summer,” officials said Wednesday.

Others not yet eligible but who want to be vaccinated without “line jumping” gather every day waiting for leftover shots at the city’s clinic sites. The Seattle Fire crews on hand to administer the vaccines serve the leftover crowds in reverse age order with the oldest standby participants at the site getting first dibs.

For those willing to wait or already eligible, sign ups are open for the Lumen center, or the city’s other existing sites in West Seattle and Rainier Beach. More city sites are planned. You can sign up for the notification list here.

Meanwhile, life could also be getting back closer to normal for the city’s public school kids. The district and the teachers union have a tentative agreement for beginning the process of getting kids back in the classroom starting by the end of the month.

In Thursday announcements, Inslee also said the state’s eviction moratorium would be extended through June. Seattle’s moratorium was extended earlier this week.

“The pandemic’s economic toll continues to burden many Washingtonians, particularly tenants,” Inslee said. “People need these supports right now. There is no other way to look at it.”


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RWK
RWK
25 days ago

This is very welcome news, especially for the restaurant workers, but also for those of us eager to go back to restaurants. One idea which has been floated is to have “vaccine nights” where customers and staff alike will all be vaccinated, and then the restaurant would be allowed to be at 100% capacity. This would give relief to those owners who have been mightily struggling during the pandemic, and it would mean that they could re-hire at least some of their workers. Win-win!

Crow
Crow
24 days ago

Another welcome sign that things are getting back to normal!

Beaker
Beaker
24 days ago

Don’t forget to read the fine print: Despite the 2 week lag between 1st and 2nd vaccine doses, you are not considered protected until 14 days after your 2nd dose of vaccine (or 1st dose of J&J). “Protected” means you can still contract a COVID19 infection in this 4 week window but you stand an 80-90% chance that you will not be hospitalized and die with severe COVID. You still have a good chance of getting infected, developing some of the milder symptoms of COVID, and being in an infectious state. Once you get immunized, you are also looking at a possibility of mounting a reaction to the vaccine itself with symptoms of fever, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, body aches, and extreme lethargy. And, regardless of your vaccine status, everyone is capable of becoming a carrier who is infected, asymptomatic, and capable of infecting others. In WA state, the I-5 corridor is still a significant source of new infections, the peak age group of new infections is 20-34, the R0 value has reached a plateau of 1.0 (and plateaus have preceded all 3 surges of new infections in WA). The majority of the 28% of Washington residents vaccinated are seniors and elderly who are not necessarily the demographic that will be restoring the bar and restaurant industry.
Yes, the inclusion of restaurant staff is great news but please realize that when you receive your first of 2 doses, you are still facing a 4 week window before your immune respone provides full protection. The proposed “vaccine nights”? Potential super spreader events. From an epidemiological standpoint, the earliest that bars and restaurants should be allowed 50% occupancy would be the beginning of May with a special emphasis on all hospitality employees receiving vaccines in the first two weeks of April. In the meanwhile, the simplest precautions are still your best defense: continue to socially distance, limit errands to necessary trips only, keep wearing your masks and washing your hands. WA state and our residents have done a superior job of managing the pandemic compared to much of the US. Even just 2 more months of vigilance will go a long way in restoring safety to inside gathering spots.

Alicia Noland
Alicia Noland
24 days ago
Reply to  Beaker

I agree. I’ve worked throughout the pandemic, the ones coming in refusing to mask up are definitely not the people who are getting vaccinated. This only makes privileged people working from home feel more safe. Us “essential” workers are fucked (not just by the economy, now).

Seanbrokky
Seanbrokky
24 days ago
Reply to  Beaker

Thank you. Tired of repeatedly hearing the incorrect idea that vaccinated = immediately immune.

RWK
RWK
24 days ago
Reply to  Beaker

Thanks for your wise advice. But I still think “vaccine nights” could work…one would need to present a vaccine card, with the dates of vaccination on it, and be admitted only if they were outside the window where they could still become infected after vaccination.