Chicago's Restaurant Workers Want Priority Status For COVID Vaccine

Chicago is in the 1C group. And restaurant workers insist they should be higher on the vaccine eligibility list than others in that group. CBS 2's Jim Williams reports they said they're at greater risk for COVID.

Video Transcript

BRAD EDWARDS: 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 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 to make sure that everything is clean 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 as 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.

ROGER ROMANELLI: 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.

ROGER ROMANELLI: 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.

ROGER ROMANELLI: For hardware store employees, construction, real estate, hotel, and motel workers. Now, my concern is with hardware store employees being equalized with restaurant employees.

JIM WILLIAMS: Employees who've 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 will, going to put a big smile on everybody's face, there's no doubt.

JIM WILLIAMS: Jim Williams, CBS 2 News.

BRAD EDWARDS: Thanks, Jim. The city got back to Jim, telling him they've been following the vaccination distribution plan to prioritize the most vulnerable individuals, but are partnered with the Illinois Restaurant Association to host vaccination events, which are set to begin in mid-April.