While the pace of New York City’s vaccine rollout has been going, as the New York Times puts it, “more slowly than anticipated,” the governor attempted today to offer at least some reassurance that, at the very least, they’re working on it — and if the current projections are right, some grocery store workers should begin getting their first doses by the end of January.
Right now, we’re in phase 1a of the state’s five-step distribution program. This first group includes hospital employees, EMTs, as well as residents and staff at long-term care facilities, like nursing homes. As of this week, it also includes “all doctors, nurses, and healthcare staff who come into contact with the public.” Actual injections, however, have lagged, and so in an attempt to speed things up — having the vaccine, we are now all acutely aware, is not the same as administering it — the state is now imposing penalties on hospitals that don’t use up their allotments and will step in to “expedite” the troubled federal nursing home vaccination program.
Grocery store workers in the state should be eligible as part of the next phase, along with first responders, teachers and school staff working in-person, public-health workers, and other “essential frontline workers” like pharmacists and transit staff. “Having them in phase two creates a pretty advantageous situation for maintaining their health for themselves and their families,” Robert Newell, president of UFCW Local 1500, which represents grocery store employees, told Spectrum News, pointing out that they’d been “exposed significantly more than most other industries.” In theory, phase two is slated to start before the end of this month (although those projections, it’s worth noting, seem to be from before the rollout actually started, and the pace of progress since then has been “worrying.”)
Meanwhile, restaurant workers — “essential” but not “frontline,” according to the CDC’s guidelines — would be part of the state’s fourth phase, when “all other essential workers” qualify for the shot based on the current rubric. It’s not clear what the timeline for that might be either, except that the vaccine is “expected to be more widely available in spring or early summer 2021.”