Indoor food establishments have been at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They were among the first businesses to be shut down on government orders, and among the last to be allowed to reopen – with new mask-wearing and social distancing rules that limited their ability to serve their customers.
Three Portland restaurants have taken the next step – this time without waiting for a government mandate. Little Giant on Danforth Street, Portland Hunt & Alpine Club on Market Street and Crown Jewel on Great Diamond Island have announced that they will only serve people vaccinated against COVID 19.
They are among the first companies to make this decision, but they will certainly not be the last. At a time when cases are increasing across the country, this makes a lot of sense.
Others make the same choice. New York City will require proof of vaccination at all indoor restaurants, bars and gyms. Elsewhere, companies are taking the lead.
Large employers here in Maine, including the state’s two largest health care systems, MaineHealth and Northern Light, will require all of their employees to be vaccinated.
Concert halls, movie theaters, retail stores and other businesses that invite the public inside will also have to decide how they plan to ensure the safety of customers and employees.
The challenge for everyone will be to verify who among their potential clients received their pictures. Our overly complex and decentralized healthcare system cannot spit out vaccine “passports” like those produced in European countries, so it will likely be up to private companies to develop a secure, easy-to-use and universally accepted identifier.
This will make it easier for other restaurants and bars to follow the lead of Little Giant, Portland Hunt & Alpine and Crown Jewel.
Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are very effective even against the highly transmissible delta variant. No vaccine is perfect, but groundbreaking cases involving vaccinated people aren’t what overwhelms hospitals in other states. The bulk of new cases are in unvaccinated people, who become much sicker when infected.
If access to places of entertainment makes people want to get vaccinated, it would be good for their health and that of their community.
But companies like the Three Portland restaurants are rightly addressing a narrower question: How can they best care for the health of their customers and staff?
Mixing with unvaccinated people indoors is not safe. Restaurants may be the first to draw this line, but by now we should be used to them being on the cutting edge of technology.
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