Editorial: A black sheep leads the way on COVID-19

Editorial: A black sheep leads the way on COVID-19

The Black Sheep Ale House in Mineola recently announced that it had become one of the first restaurants in the area to require proof of vaccination for patrons.

In an Aug. 2 post on Facebook, the bar and restaurant said:  “From this moment forward, until further notice, The Black Sheep is VAX ONLY. Proof required for entry. Sorry, not sorry.”

Black Sheep owner Vincent Minutella told News 12 he assumed the policy would hurt business, but he was putting other concerns above profits.

“It’s meant to protect my customers and my staff and myself from something that has been a living hell for the past, you know, almost two years,” Minutella said.

His decision came shortly before New York Mayor Bill De Blasio’s announcement that New York City would require patrons to have at least one dose of the vaccine to participate in activities in public places, including indoor dining.

We give Minutella much credit for requiring patrons to be vaccinated even at the risk of losing business. We hope people who are vaccinated show their support for him by frequenting his restaurant.

But we are not sure Minutella is correct in his assumption that requiring proof of vaccination for a patron will hurt his business.

For one thing, restaurants in New York City do not appear to have been harmed by requiring proof of vaccination.

This is probably true for several reasons.

Some unvaccinated people may have gotten the shot now so that they are not shut out of indoor activities. And some vaccinated people, concerned by the Delta variant of COVID-19, may be more comfortable dining in a restaurant knowing that everyone has gotten the shot.

Another is that it may be easier to hire and retain staff.

Those in the hospitality business have frequently said the difficulty of hiring staff has hurt revenues by reducing the number of customers who can be served in an evening.

They have often blamed this on expanded unemployment benefits that they have said discouraged people from rejoining the workforce.

A total of 26 states, all but one with Republican governors, moved to end some or all of the expanded benefits that have been in place since the pandemic began. Those benefits are set to expire in New York in September.

But several recent studies show that expanded unemployment benefits have played only a small role, if any, in this year’s labor shortages.

“Data released Friday by the Labor Department provided the latest evidence. It showed that the states that cut benefits have experienced job growth similar to — and perhaps slightly slower than — growth in states that retained the benefits,” The New York Times reported.

The expiration of unemployment benefits also hurt local economies as workers who lost the extra income have responded by cutting spending by roughly 20 percent.

Economists pointed out that there are other reasons hospitality businesses continue to struggle with staffing, including child care issues and concerns about the coronavirus.

This makes sense. We can understand some prospective employees being reluctant to work indoors with people who may or may not be vaccinated, especially in those places where they are not making more now than before the pandemic either in wages or tips.

We also understand the reluctance of restaurant owners who have suffered for months with staffing shortages, reduced in-door seating, restrictions on their hours of operation and the expense of installing safety dividers to incur the anger of potential patrons by excluding them indoors.

The difficult decision to require proof of vaccination for patrons would be eliminated by a Nassau County or statewide requirement that follows New York City.

This would no doubt draw vocal opposition from those who have not been vaccinated.

But people are not permitted to smoke cigarettes or cigars in restaurants and other public places for health reasons.

So why should people who have done the responsible thing and gotten vaccinated be subject to a deadly disease from those who haven’t, particularly in a place where patrons need to take their masks off?

Those who don’t want to get vaccinated are free to dine outdoors or get home delivery.

The good news for those living in Nassau is that 85.3 percent of adults (18 and over) have received at least one vaccine dose, the highest percentage of any county in the state and third highest in the United States among counties with a million or more people,  County Executive Laura Curran announced last week.

More good news is that the Food and Drug Administration gave Pfizer’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine official approval Monday for people 16 and over.

The approval is expected to pave the way for a series of vaccination requirements by public and private organizations which had been awaiting final regulatory action before putting mandates into effect.

Let New York City’s requirements be one of the first mandates approved for restaurants and other public places that can be extended to Nassau and the rest of the state.

We would like to think that the FDA’s approval may also convince some of those who haven’t been vaccinated to get a shot.

The safety of the vaccines has been amply demonstrated with the more than 160 million people vaccinated in the United States and the five billion doses given worldwide. And many who haven’t been vaccinated have asked for experimental, unapproved – and even rejected – medicines once they have been hospitalized with COVID.

But if some people require official approval of a vaccine, then so be it.

Despite the good news, this is no time to let up.

The Delta variant is raging across many parts of this country, and there has been an uptick everywhere in New York, including Nassau County.

Schools are also set to open in Nassau after Labor Day with no vaccines available to kids under 12. while students 12 to 18 have been vaccinated at a much lower rate than adults.

With the FDA’s official approval of the Pfizer vaccine, we hope school districts mandate vaccines for all students above 12, teachers and staff – as is planned by some universities and hospitals as well as the military.

The state or the county should follow by requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining and other public places.

It’s worth remembering. The black sheep in this case are the people who are not vaccinated – not the ale house.


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  1. While I sympathize with all restaurant and bar owners who were put in an impossible situation from highly irresponsible government policy and research, this is not the way forward. Studies are indicating natural immunity is stronger than immunity offered from vaccines. Why should we discriminate against people who successfully recovered and do not need a vaccine or a booster? Why are they not screening for other communicable diseases at the door?This sets a bad precedent for a further dystopian society.


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