Oregon restaurant workers advocate for ‘essential’ classification in vaccine distribution

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU/CNN) – While the list of those eligible for a vaccine grows, many are left wondering if they’re classified as “essential.”

One COVID outbreak in a workplace could shut a restaurant down permanently.

Katy Connors works with the Independent Restaurant Alliance of Oregon. She said almost every restaurant she works with has encountered a COVID scare. Those can shut a business down for close to two weeks.

At this point, owners are worried about how long they can keep going like this.

“At this point we have restaurants that have zero savings,” Connors explained. “They may have just gotten their second round of PPP but they also may have not gotten that second round of PPP which means there are no funds to support that closure.”

It’s expected essential workers will be in group 1-C for vaccinations. But right now it’s not clear who will be included in that group.

PSU Biology Professor Ken Stedman said, “Where do we classify essential workers? That’s just a hard, really difficult question to answer. The real problem is we don’t have enough vaccine. So we don’t have enough vaccine, the real question is, how does it get distributed?”

This comes as Oregon considers the role equity will play in distribution.

In Portland alone, the workforce is composed of 40% people of color so these are the most highly impacted communities that are also being very extremely exposed.

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