Casino staff in Atlantic City are now eligible for vaccines as of last Monday. Governor Phil Murphy has added hospitality workers to the list of priority people for vaccination. Murphy claims he made the decision to prioritize the hospitality industry on the grounds of saving lives.
“Getting our local hospitality workers vaccinated is an important part of protecting our community. And of creating a safe, healthy environment for those who look forward to visiting our region every year,” Lori Herndon said, speaking to The Press of Atlantic City. Hendon is president and CEO of AtlantiCare.
Atlanticare provides much of the infrastructure for the vaccination program in the city. They are pumping 4,000 doses a day of COVID vaccine into people’s arms. They operate out of the Atlantic City Convention Center where casino employees can show their worker IDs to get stuck.
Hendon somewhat lets the cat out of the bag. The goal is to get people visiting Atlantic City again, and health seems to be a secondary concern.
Who’s on first?
The U.K.’s NHS has been prioritizing people for vaccination based on their risk of serious complications. The aged and those with pre-existing conditions were the first to get the needle. China, on the other hand, prioritizes vaccinations for those who are most likely to spread or catch the disease. This means putting workers at the front of the line.
New Jersey is trying to enjoy the best of both worlds by adopting a hybrid system. The combination of the U.K. and Chinese system aims at a balance. It splits vaccinations between those who keep the economy running and those who are most vulnerable (typically retirees). This fight between saving lives and saving the economy has been a key source of division, especially in the more politicized areas of the vaccine debate.
When the state vaccinates workers, especially those whose jobs force them to interact with the public, the spread of COVID slows. This helps protect the vulnerable too. New Jersey in general and Atlantic City in particular are highly dependent on their hospitality sectors. And economic costs have a human cost, just as healthcare costs do.
Think of these vaccines as an economic booster shot.
The old normal
This news comes shortly after President Biden doubled his initial goal of 100 million doses in 100 days. Having hit his goal on day 58, he is now aiming at 200 million doses by day 100 of his presidency instead.
“The last year has been very challenging for my family,” said Patti Cianci. Cianci is the second hospitality worker in Atlantic City to get the jab. She continued: “I haven’t seen my close family members in almost a year. So, I am very grateful that I am able to get the COVID vaccine. I am looking forward to getting back to normal. And keeping my coworkers and guests safe.”
Cianci’s employer laid her off a year ago. With employees now getting vaccinated, a wider opening of Atlantic City’s boardwalk empire can follow.
Hopefully, this will see the return of jobs for people like Cianci. It’s all part of the slow march towards some sort of normality.
Featured image source: Flickr by Asian Development Bank