Colorado restaurant workers getting COVID-19 vaccine sooner than expected

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DENVER — Colorado restaurant workers will be moved up to in the vaccine rollout schedule, according to Sonia Riggs, president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association.

The governor’s office confirmed Tuesday the group will be included in the food workers category of phase 1B3 of the rollout, which could begin in early March.

However, state officials caution that an exact timeline is contingent on vaccine supply but should be finalized by mid-February.

“I am thrilled to announce that restaurants are now in the same level as grocery store workers and food and agriculture workers in 1B3, phase 1B3 of the vaccine rollout,” Riggs said.

Riggs said her organization lobbied the state to include the restaurant industry in the 1B phase as soon as the state released the vaccine schedule.

“Restaurants are providing an essential service to people, and there are a number of people out there who are in those high risk populations who are counting on curbside pickup, especially delivery as a safe way to get the food that they need these prepared meals,” she said.

Opening up vaccine eligibility to restaurant workers sooner than planned will help an industry hit hard by the pandemic. Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday the state is also looking into purchasing in-home COVID-19 testing kits for restaurant workers.

“I think they (vaccines) are going to be an essential part in helping this industry that has been so critically decimated rebound,” Riggs said. “Not only do I think it will make their guests feel more comfortable, it will certainly help to keep those employees safe.”

Polis also announced Tuesday the federal government is increasing the supply of the vaccine to states. Starting next week, Colorado will be receiving up to 10,000 additional doses that will go directly to pharmacies.

The additional supply will help the state vaccinate teachers and those 65 and up, which are part of phase 1B2 of the vaccine schedule. Those groups are eligible to receive the vaccine beginning Monday.