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Louisiana Expands Vaccine Eligibility to Restaurant Employees and Food Service Workers

Essential workers including restaurant, bar, and hotel employees will be eligible to receive a vaccine on Monday, March 22

Photo by BENOIT DOPPAGNE/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

All essential workers over the age of 16 in Louisiana will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, March 22, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced in a press conference Thursday. The category includes restaurant and bar employees, food and agriculture workers, manufacturing employees, and hotel and hospitality workers, among other groups, the governor specified.

The announcement of occupation-based eligibility follows the significant expansion Gov. Edwards made last week, opening up vaccine availability to anyone in the state 16 and over with certain health conditions. The list of health conditions is extensive — it includes having asthma, being a smoker or being pregnant, and having a body mass index over 25 — a hilariously low metric that covers about 70 percent of the state’s adult population, according to the Advocate. Despite the fact that the new criteria vastly expanded eligibility, essential workers were still left out unless they met that criteria, frustrating many working in or adjacent to food service industries.

Louisiana “continues to see encouraging trends related to COVID-19,” Edwards said Thursday, including all-time lows of new cases recorded and the number of coronavirus patients being treated in hospitals. About 21 percent of the state’s population has received at least the first dose of the vaccine, according to state health officials, and 569,000 people have been fully vaccinated. Essential workers will need to present an identification badge, pay stub, or other form of communication from their employer that demonstrates that their workplace makes them eligible, Edwards said Thursday.

Louisiana has been in a modified phase 3 of reopening since early March, which increased restaurant capacity to 75 percent, and allows bars statewide to open for indoor service at 50 percent capacity. Last week, New Orleans loosened restaurant and bar restrictions to be in line with the state’s guidelines, but kept a lower cap on indoor and outdoor gatherings, sporting events, and festivals.

Edwards said Thursday he expects this to be the last expansion of eligibility made before he opens it up the general public, which he believes will happen by May 1. For a full rundown of everyone eligible for the vaccine starting Monday, March 22, see here.

Eater is tracking the impact of the COVID-19 on the city’s restaurant industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at nola@eater.com.

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