- The National Restaurant Association is calling for the U.S. government to prioritize the testing and vaccination of food supply chain workers and restaurant employees, according to the association's new Blueprint for Restaurant Revival, which it shared with Congress Wednesday.
- The trade association recommends that these workers be fast-tracked after healthcare workers, first responders and vulnerable populations.
- "Ensuring that adequate testing, timely test results, protective equipment, and vaccines are available to the industry will help us maintain a safe and secure supply chain from farm to table," the document states.
Though much of the NRA's Blueprint for Restaurant Revival recommendations echo the association's April guidelines, specifically in regards to the creation of a restaurant-specific recovery fund and calls for changes to the Paycheck Protection Program, these testing and vaccination suggestions are new.
Many restaurants in municipalities that are reopening for either indoor our outdoor dining have been forced to close again because their employees have contracted COVID-19. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, 12% of food workers said they worked when they were sick with vomiting or diarrhea. Early COVID-19 symptoms are generally more mild and similar to cold and flu-like conditions, which could make it even more likely for restaurant workers to come to work sick and infect their fellow employees.
Major restaurant chains enacted paid sick leave at the start of the pandemic to avoid this situation, with some like McDonald's implementing temperature checks before the start of each employee's shift. These efforts can help weed out potentially infected employees and increase consumer confidence in eating out, but because asymptomatic and presymptomatic carriers can still spread the virus and test results can take up to a week to finalize, there are still gaps in restaurants' best-laid plans.
Because of this, NRA is also calling for the federal government to improve its COVID-19 testing methods and increase its coordination with public health departments to tackle this issue.
"We support modernizing the government's approach to testing and eliminating gaps, which ultimately will help our nation's food supply chain feed American families, especially during times of crisis," the association states in the Blueprint.
Tipped restaurant workers may also feel pressure to return to work even if they feel unsafe to financially support themselves, Sally Abrahamson, a partner with the law firm Outten & Golden, told the Washington Post. Easier access to testing and vaccination when available could help ease employee fears and help restaurants maintain a steady labor force as they struggle to operate amid COVID-19's economic disruption.