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Atlanta City Council Urges Georgia to Expand Current Vaccine Eligibility to Food Workers

Atlanta City Council is urging Georgia’s governor and Department of Public Health to consider making food service, grocery store, and agricultural workers part of the phase 1A+ COVID-19 vaccination group

Covid-19 Testing Hub At The Auditorium Parco Della Musica In Rome Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images
Beth McKibben is the editor and staff reporter for Eater Atlanta and has been covering food and cocktails locally and regionally for 12 years.

The Atlanta City Council is urging Georgia governor Brian Kemp and the Department of Public Health to make food service, grocery store, and agricultural workers part of the phase 1A+ COVID-19 vaccination group. This would include people working in restaurants and bars across the state.

On Monday, the Atlanta City Council unanimously approved a resolution asking the state to add corrections officers, teachers, food, grocery, and agricultural workers, manufacturing workers, and people working for the U.S. Postal Service to phase 1A+ eligibility. The resolution, co-authored by council members Antonio Brown and Dustin Hillis, states that these particular groups are “likely at highest risk for work-related exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, because their work-related duties must be performed on-site and involve being in close proximity (<6 feet) to the public or to coworkers.”

The resolution has been sent to Gov. Kemp and Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey for consideration.

“Restaurant workers were at the forefront for why this resolution was created. I had a conversation with Gov. Kemp recently and talked about there being a class of folks that should be prioritized within 1A,” Brown tells Eater. “They’ve been on the front lines of the pandemic since it began, along with our healthcare professionals. These are the people who, before and after Georgia reopened, have been sustaining restaurants and these businesses and keeping them afloat throughout the pandemic.”

During the conversation, Brown says the governor agreed with the need to add these essential workers to phase 1A+. However, Gov. Kemp told Brown there are not enough vaccines in the current supply to expand the group further at this time. Phase 1A+ in Georgia includes healthcare workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, adults 65 years and older, and law enforcement and firefighters.

The groups listed in the city council’s resolution are classified as essential frontline workers by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. With the state expanding phase 1A+ vaccine eligibility to adults 65 years (not 75 years) and older and to first responders, Georgia strayed from the committee’s recommendations. Under Georgia’s current guidance, these essential workers should start becoming eligible for the vaccine as part of phase 1B in the state’s rollout plan.

While Brown says he understands the Atlanta City Council’s resolution may not ultimately revise the vaccination rollout process in Georgia, it was necessary for the resolution to be a matter of public record. “We put this resolution forward because it’s important that our residents know we hear them, we support them, and we are fighting every day to ensure they are part of a process that includes them,” he says.

The Georgia Department of Public Health now features a website which breaks down vaccine totals by state, county, race, and ethnicity. According to the February 16 update, Georgia has administered 1,491,903 vaccines or 76 percent of the 1,945,425 vaccines shipped to the state. Data is updated daily at 3 p.m.

The CDC now recommends people wear a tight-fitting mask or two masks in public, especially indoors or when not inside their homes. While no statewide mask mandate exists for the public in Georgia, masks are required for all customer-facing employees at businesses across the state, including hosts, servers, bartenders, food runners, and bussers at restaurants and bars. By order of the governor, cities and counties are permitted to impose local mask requirements in public and on government property. However, owners of restaurants and other private businesses can choose to opt out of enforcing a local mask mandate on patrons.

Restaurants and bars are required to increase physical space between employees and patrons and not allow patrons to gather when not seated at a table. There are no capacity limits for Georgia restaurants. Bars and nightclubs must limit capacity to no more than 50 people or 35-percent total capacity.