El Paso County Public Health and the Downtown Partnership held a pop-up vaccine clinic for restaurant workers and more at The Antlers hotel on March 23. The clinic administered 1,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to restaurant industry workers and others eligible in Phase 1B.4.

“One of our main goals is to make the vaccine as easy to access as possible by reducing barriers,” said Susan Wheelan, El Paso County Public Health director, in a news release. “To accomplish this, we are bringing vaccines directly into El Paso County communities, and hosting clinics at locations that make it easy and convenient for people to get vaccinated.”  

Four of El Paso County’s 17 COVID-19 outbreaks were in restaurants. “Everyone wants their employees to be safe as things open up,” says Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership. “I realize there’s a bit of a timing issue. We want things opened up but we want all of our workers to be able to serve people, and I think events like this help that happen.”

Edmondson notes the impact COVID-19 has had on the local restaurant industry. “It’s been incredibly difficult,” she says. “Gross sales at our downtown restaurants were down over 30 percent last year. That’s even with doing curbside takeout and all of the other things all the loyal customers stepped up to do for their favorite places.

It was enough for most folks to be able to hold on, with the hope of better times. Now we’re getting so close. That’s why we want everyone to still continue to engage in safe practices, so that we can look forward to what we think are going to be good months ahead with a little bit more opening up and more safety for restaurants to get back to doing what they do best, which is serving great food in a great environment for folks.”

Nearly 232,000 people had been vaccinated in El Paso County as of March 26 — about 92,166 people had been fully vaccinated. Of those vaccinated, 59.2 percent received the Pfizer vaccine, 39.2 percent the Moderna vaccine and 1.6 percent received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

News Reporter

Heidi Beedle is a former soldier, educator, activist, and animal welfare worker. She received a Bachelor’s in English from UCCS. She has worked as a freelance writer covering LGBTQ issues, nuclear disasters, cattle mutilations, and social movements.