Cuomo: Counties can vaccinate restaurant workers, cab drivers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he is giving county officials the power to add taxi drivers and restaurant workers to the list of people eligible for a coronavirus vaccine. That would mean another major expansion of eligibility rules, even as the state struggles with an extremely limited supply of shots.

Saying that "no one size fits all," Cuomo said different counties may have different priorities based on their population and needs. 

"Suffolk County is a little different than Erie County. Rochester is a little different than Binghamton. They are in different situations and we want to give them more flexibility. They're getting more vaccine," Cuomo said. "If they want to add developmentally disabled facilities, if they want to add taxi drivers, Uber drivers, restaurant workers, they can do that if they think it works within their prioritization locally. In other words, some localities have already done a large percentage of their police, their fire, their teachers and they do have flexibility." 

New York City alone has nearly 200,000 licensed cabbies and ride-hail drivers. New York state had an estimated 865,800 restaurant and foodservice jobs as of 2019, according to the National Restaurant Association.

This appears to be a turnaround from Cuomo's remarks in recent days. A day earlier, the governor slammed elected officials for pushing to vaccinate restaurant workers when supply was limited. 

"It's a cheap, insincere discussion," Cuomo said. "Yes, I would like to see restaurant workers eligible. But what does eligibility mean when you don't have enough?"

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But Cuomo said Tuesday the federal government signaled that it will send New York more doses in coming weeks, which could free up more doses. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday he supports vaccinating restaurant workers.

The restaurant industry and unions representing taxi drivers have been urging New York to expand eligibility to their members.

The current eligibility list for the vaccine in New York includes health care workers, nursing home staff and patients, teachers, police officers, firefighters, public transit workers, grocery store workers, and every person age 65 or older.

The state estimated that 7 million people were included in those categories, before this latest potential expansion.

With The Associated Press