Chicago Restaurant Workers Want Priority Status In Getting The COVID Vaccine

Appointments are now open to the remaining groups in the 1C category. Restaurant workers insist they should be higher on the vaccine eligibility list than others in that group. CBS 2's Jim Williams reports.

Video Transcript

- Starting today, more essential workers are eligible for the COVID vaccine in Suburban Cook County. Appointments are now open to the remaining group in the 1C category. That includes restaurant staff, retail workers, clergy, energy, legal, transportation, and logistics.

Chicago is also in 1C, and restaurant workers here insist they should be a higher priority for the vaccine, higher than some in the same group. CBS 2's Jim Williams joins us now. Jim, they say they're at greater risk to not only get, but transmit COVID.

JIM WILLIAMS: Brad, this is their argument. The restaurants say their workers have a lot of contact with customers, and those customers have to drop their masks to eat.

At Chez Moi, a French bistro in Lincoln Park, owner and chef Dominique Tougne has taken several steps to keep his customers and his staff safe.

DOMINIQUE TOUGNE: We are all wearing masks constantly. We have the [? gel, ?] you know, to make sure that everything is cleaned constantly. We have the right distance between the table, and also, the way we manage the flow of people in the restaurant.

JIM WILLIAMS: But, Tougne wants one more level of security for his workers. So far, elusive here, the COVID vaccine.

DOMINIQUE TOUGNE: 99% of the people have not been vaccinated yet, so as early this will be able to be done, the better it will be.

JIM WILLIAMS: It is the hope of many other restaurateurs and their plea to Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

- And the restaurant employees have to be prioritized in this 1C vaccination process.

JIM WILLIAMS: The Chicago Restaurant Coalition argues employees have close contact with customers who have to drop their masks to eat.

- We were told, basically, that the 75,000 restaurant employees need to get in line and wait along with millions of other new vaccine requesters.

JIM WILLIAMS: In Chicago, restaurant employees are in 1C, which does make them eligible for the vaccine now, but so are other workers who the restaurant industry says don't face the same risk of getting COVID.

- They're hardware store employees, construction, real estate, and hotel and motel workers. Now, my concern is with hardware store employees being equalized with restaurant employees.

JIM WILLIAMS: Employees who have already suffered as restaurants curtail service or shut down altogether. Dominique Tougne, fighting to keep his restaurant open, is looking for what he calls peace of mind.

DOMINIQUE TOUGNE: I think that would put a big smile on everybody's face. That's no doubt.

JIM WILLIAMS: The restaurant group's leader says he is disappointed in Mayor Lightfoot. We reached out to the mayor's office. No response yet to what the restaurant said today. Jim Williams, CBS 2 News.