Restaurant, retail and hospitality employees in three areas of Michigan will be eligible for free gift cards in the coming weeks during the continuation of a statewide COVID-19 vaccination push for these industry workers that began last month in Detroit.
The first 100 walk-ups at a clinic in Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County on Thursday will receive a $50 Visa gift card and a Zingerman’s sandwich.
Clinics also are planned next week in Traverse City and Grand Rapids, and one is set for June 15 in Kalamazoo. All three clinics will have 200 doses of vaccine available.
The first vaccination event for restaurant, retail and hospitality workers was in Clark Park in Detroit on May 14, while another was held in Lansing six days later.
Eighty people were vaccinated at the Detroit event and 40 people were inoculated at the Lansing one, according to the Protect Michigan Commission. Up to 400 workers could have received a $25 Visa gift card at each event in Detroit and Lansing.
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Commission Director Kerry Ebersole Singh said the pilot program is to promote vaccination rates among these workers, who tend to be younger and harder to get inoculated. She said organizers weren’t sure what to expect when the program first kicked off and thought 400 was a good ballpark figure to start with.
“On first blush, we were slightly disappointed,” she said. “(When) we heard 80 was three to four times as many as the clinic that regularly operates in the area, we said, ‘OK, we need to resize our expectations in light of what we’re seeing in each local area.’
“We’re definitely testing to see what is the draw that’s going to bring this segment of folks out. Just like any market, it could vary by region,” she said. “It’s an important demographic wherever you are in the state.”
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Cities and areas of the state for the clinics were selected based on high population areas that also would result in spending the incentive dollars in the same area at local restaurants, bars, hotels and retail shops, said Emily Daunt, spokesperson for the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association.
Organizers are constantly evaluating if, and what, other cities could be potential sites for these clinics. They hope to provide shots to hundreds more people through June, Daunt said.
Singh said organizers will add locations, including those in areas or counties with lower vaccination rates, and may go back to southwest Detroit. She said many in this demographic are waiting to see whether vaccines will be effective or if they really need it, especially if they already had COVID-19; and some have voiced concerns about side effects.
More than 4.7 million Michiganders age 16 and older (59% of the population) have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the state’s dashboard.
State and federal officials are shooting for 70% of the population to have at least one dose of vaccine by the beginning of July.
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday a multipronged approach this month to get to the 70% mark of adult Americans with one dose by July 4, including: extended hours at pharmacies every Friday; free child care for people getting vaccinated; free rides to and from vaccination centers by Uber and Lyft, and working with Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons, possibly using them as vaccination sites.
The city of Detroit’s vaccination outreach includes barbershops and beauty salons, and officials did a live telephone town hall on May 17 especially for these businesses, said Margaret Carroll, spokeswoman for the city’s health department.
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Biden also announced a mayors’ challenge to see which city can grow its vaccination rate the most by the Fourth of July. Mayors in Detroit, Sterling Heights and Westland joined the challenge, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors website.
The Protect Michigan Commission is partnering with the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, Small Business Association of Michigan and community organizations to encourage Michiganders working in hospitality industries and their families to get vaccinated.
“For hospitality workers that means greater peace of mind and no more masks to hide our smile, which is kind of a big deal in this industry,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the restaurant and lodging association.
The groups are targeting areas with high foot traffic and a concentration of restaurants, bars and hotels. Funds to buy the gift cards were privately donated and did not come from taxpayer resources, according to the commission.
Those being inoculated will be signed up for their second shot (if receiving a two-shot vaccine) at the same mobile clinic or through the health department administering the shots, organizers said.
The Ann Arbor clinic is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday at Zingerman’s Greyline, 100 N. Ashley St., where Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available. An adult or guardian must be with those age 18 and younger getting vaccinated. Those age 12 to 17 can only get the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.
The Traverse City clinic will be held on Monday at Rare Bird Brewpub, 229 Lake Ave., and the Grand Rapids clinic will be held on Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn, 2321 East Beltline Ave. Both clinics will run from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Kalamazoo clinic will be at the Radisson Plaza Hotel, 100 West Michigan, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on June 15.
Contact Christina Hall: email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.
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