Alberta hospitality workers to be included in the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
In an open letter to the province, the Alberta Hospitality Association said individuals working in the sector have helped keep the province’s economy alive but are still struggling.
Association president Ernie Tsu said 70 per cent of Alberta hospitality businesses are operating at 30 per cent capacity and getting workers vaccinated sooner could allow the industry to recover sooner.
“We saw four more closures last week and we’re doing everything possible to avoid those closures, and if vaccinations might be a possible solution then we’re hoping for guidance from the government on that end,” he said.
“It’s about being able to lift some of the restrictions, but more importantly, it’s about being able to let the public know that they’re even safer now than (they are) already when we’re operating at a higher standard than quite frankly any other industry.”
The association’s letter notes it would like those in the hospitality industry to be identified as essential workers, similar to Prince Edward Island and 17 American states.
“They’ve identified how important that industry is to keep the economy rolling, especially at the younger employment level,” Tsu said.
“We’re looking for guidance on that, or if it’s a possibility, or if that’s what the government is looking for in order for our industry to be whole.”
The association said the approximately 100,000 workers in Alberta’s hospitality industry have already done everything possible to ensure customer safety.
“We’ve already gone to the highest standard possible — plexiglass, masks, sanitizer — all the protocols that are in place,” Tsu said.
“If vaccination is going to happen for our industry, it will be very helpful, especially on the public perception side.”
Alberta government assistant communications director Sherene Khaw said due to the limited vaccine supply, the province is currently targeting seniors, those most at risk of severe outcomes and Albertans who work directly with those individuals.
“All Albertans, regardless of occupation, who are 65 and older are now eligible for the vaccine, and those with eligible underlying conditions will receive it in Phase 2B,” Khaw said.
“We will continue expanding the rollout as more vaccines arrive. While decisions on Phase 3 have not yet been made, every eligible Albertan who wants a vaccine will be able to book an appointment in the coming weeks.”
The next phase of vaccinations, Phase 2B, includes people with high-risk underlying health conditions. Phase 2C will include employees in areas such as policing, health-care and meat packing plants.