A day after restaurants in Michigan could reopen indoor dining at 25% capacity, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced Tuesday that food service workers who live or work in the city are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
That includes those who work in restaurants, grocery stores, meat packing and food and beverage handling. Also, security guards and janitors who live or work in the city can schedule a vaccination appointment, Duggan said during a briefing.
The expansion comes a day after the city received 15,000 vaccines this week for its mass drive-thru vaccination clinic in the TCF Center garage. More than 3,000 people are getting vaccinated at the clinic Tuesday, Duggan said.
Duggan said he wanted to reach out to those who, every day, are most at risk for COVID-19 exposure. He said janitors are “too often overlooked,” but every night they are cleaning offices with COVID-19 germs so employees can come back safely the next day.
Duggan estimates that several thousand people are eligible to receive a shot in these expanded groups.
He said there is no age restriction for those in the new categories eligible for a vaccine, but workers must present a pay stub or employee ID when they arrive at their appointment to be inoculated.
“If you are handling our food supply, we want you to be COVID-free,” he said.
Oakland County Health Division is scheduling vaccine appointments for front-line grocery, food service and crucial infrastructure workers in addition to other eligible priority groups such as long-term care facilities, first responders, teachers, child care and health care workers and residents 65 and older, said Bill Mullan, spokesman for Executive Dave Coulter.
“In order to make headway in our fight against the pandemic, it is critical to vaccinate the more than 220,000 individuals currently eligible for COVID vaccine in Oakland County. We remain committed to scheduling vaccinations for our most vulnerable residents and workers who face exposure to coronavirus,” he said.
Wayne County is not vaccinating any of these new groups, saying its health department is still working through the priority positions in Phase1A3 and teachers. It will move into the next groups once it moves through these priority groups, said Bill Nowling, spokesman for Executive Warren Evans.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said the health department there is vaccinating the groups Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said could be vaccinated.
Duggan anticipates workers in the manufacturing industry will become eligible for a vaccine in the next week or two. He said the city is expected to receive 15,000 doses of vaccine a week.
Duggan encouraged two or three eligible people who are scheduled for their vaccine appointments to ride together to make the process go quicker. He said one person can call and book two or three eligible people for a shot as long as they everyone’s name, date of birth, phone number, email and information on whether the person has had an allergic reaction to vaccinations in the past.
On Thursday, Duggan opened the categories of those eligible for a shot to Detroiters age 65 and older as well as health care workers who are not part of hospitals and who live or work in the city. That included those as doctor’s and dentist’s offices, including chiropractors, occupational and physical therapists and those at veterinary centers.
The city’s Health Department is tripling its outreach vaccination efforts at senior buildings and homeless shelters and started to visit congregate settings operated by the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network, such as mental health facilities, substance abuse recovery centers and other supportive housing units, said Denise Fair, the city’s chief public health officer.
She said the vaccine is safe, saves lives and is the best tool out there right now to beat the pandemic.
Duggan said there is a “real chance” this summer that folks could be back to normal if they get vaccinated, saying “we can take back the city and the life we had by signing up.”
In the last two weeks, Detroit had only received 5,000 or 6,000 doses of vaccine per week. Duggan said while the state has vaccinated 10% of its residents with a first dose, only 3% of Detroiters have received one and the city has to close the gap.
Unlike the suburbs, Duggan said, many Detroiters don’t have a primary care physician or the Internet to be connected to a hospital or health system that has electronic health records. He said hospitals and health systems in the suburbs have done a good job of reaching people about vaccines.
“In Detroit,” he said, “we have to fill that role.”
The city began its mass drive-thru vaccination clinic Jan. 13 with 400 appointments, increasing each day until 1,000 appointments were scheduled starting the week of Jan. 18. Appointments are based on the weekly supply of the vaccine.
Postal workers, some state and federal law enforcement officials and K-12 teachers also are among those who can be vaccinated at the Detroit clinic.
The groups eligible have expanded week by week, with those in the food industry the newest to be able to sign up.
Restaurants were able to reopen Monday for the first time since November, when the state banned indoor dining to stem the spread of the virus.
However, there are restrictions on restaurants and bars, which were hit hard by pandemic-related closures. Aside from the 25% capacity limit, they must follow social distance guidelines, including mask protocols, and close at 10 p.m.
Restaurants have been struggling to get by through takeout and delivery and creating outdoor dining options.
According to the city’s vaccination dashboard Tuesday, 39,350 doses of vaccine have been received — 30,000 Moderna and 9,350 Pfizer. It states that 18,472 doses have been administered, or nearly 47% of the doses received.
More than 7,370 Detroiters age 65 and older and their 65-year-old Good Neighbor drivers — people taking them to their appointment — have been vaccinated, as well as 2,815 K-12 teachers and support staff; 2,478 first responders; 1,993 health care providers and others, including those in senior centers and homeless shelters.
Those eligible for a shot can call 313-230-0505 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule a vaccination appointment.
Duggan said last week that TCF Center clinic would extend its hours to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays to administer the vaccines.
He said when the city receives 20,000 or more vaccines, it would open the clinic on Saturdays. He expects in the next two weeks that multiple locations in the community may be open as vaccination clinics in addition to the TCF Center garage and officials are working on those sites now.
Contact Christina Hall: [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit expands COVID-19 vaccines to food service workers, security guards, janitors