Front-line workers react to new vaccination timeline

Kainoa Lasconia works at Chacha's Hawaiian Grill in Eugene and is eager to get vaccinated.

Posted: Feb 27, 2021 9:35 PM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. — With the new announcement that Oregon will begin prioritizing people with underlying health conditions and people who are front-line essential workers, some in those groups have mixed reactions.

Margaret Gerrans is an employee at New Seasons Market in Portland.

"I love the people I work with. I care about my coworkers," Gerrans said.

Grocery store employees like her have been on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic for about a year.

"There are a lot of people ... that are worn kind of ragged at this point," she said.

Essential workers cannot work from home, having to face crowds, anti-maskers, and potential COVID-19 exposure in person.

Gerrans said front-line workers are still the last to be prioritized before the general population.

"It isn't any better than it was yesterday, except there's now a date attached to it," Gerrans said. "It goes from a slap in the face to kind of a gut punch."

Samantha Santana shared similar frustrations. She works at the Luxe gift shop in the Oakway Center. 

"It's a bummer because I'm interacting with people at work," Santana said, "but I'm just excited that we're getting vaccinations," Santana said. 

For her and many others, the vaccinations can't get here soon enough. 

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 represents tens of thousands of grocery workers in Oregon. In a news release it said Gov. Kate Brown's announcement about the vaccine priority timeline "once again abandoned these workers to the back of the line."

Restaurant and bar staff will also be included in Oregon's essential worker designation.

Kainoa Lasconia works at Chacha's Hawaiian Grill in Eugene and is eager to get vaccinated. 

"We deserve being vaccinated. Being in constant contact with customers, everybody strolling in and out of the restaurant. Just for us as restaurant workers to be safe," Lasconia said. 

Gerrans expressed concern vaccine supply may not cover all people with underlying conditions and the subsequent group of essential workers.

"Sort of like when a concert lets out all at once and everybody rushes the door," Gerrans said. "Now is not the time to do that."

She said essential workers should have been considered before educators, who have been able to work from home.

"I want teachers to get vaccinated just like the rest of us, but they shouldn't be rushing the gate either," Gerrans said.

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