Well over halfway through 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic that rocked the world in early 2020 is still disrupting nearly every aspect of our lives. While there was a sense of renewed hope earlier in the year with the arrival of vaccines, COVID cases are once again on the rise, especially among the unvaccinated. People are eager to dine out after a year of sheltering in place. But with the ultra-contagious Delta variant now responsible for upwards of 80% of cases in the United States, and showing no signs of stopping, restaurateurs and hospitality businesses are having to make some tough decisions. How can restaurants balance the health of their business with the health of their staff and customers? These are tough questions that do not yet have clear answers. 

    It is now clear that the sharp rise in COVID cases is happening primarily among the population of Americans who have yet to (or cannot) receive one of the available vaccines. Research from the CDC shows that unvaccinated individuals are up to five times more likely to contract the virus, and ten times more likely to become hospitalized from it. Within recent months, we have seen businesses choose to only provide their services to individuals who show proof of vaccination. In San Francisco, California, residents must provide proof of vaccination in order to dine indoors, attend concerts, and to utilize indoor gyms. This is the first major city in the country to enforce such strict vaccination requirements, and since the mandate, there has been a dramatic decrease in COVID cases in San Francisco county. 

    Although vaccination requirements may affect customer demographics for some businesses, preliminary research indicates an increase in COVID related safety among staff and customers if only vaccinated individuals are able to dine in. With the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine being proved to be up to 90% effective against Covid-19, vaccination requirements can help prevent future Covid outbreaks within the workplace, preventing restaurants from having to shut down as a result of an outbreak. The Darden Restaurant chain, which owns Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Yard House, Capital Grille, and more, recently announced they will be paying their employees hourly, for up to two hours of time off, to encourage them to get the vaccine.