COLORADO SPRINGS — Nearly 300,000 restaurant workers are among the latest group of Coloradans eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. KOAA News5 spoke to several workers who are now breathing a sigh of relief and are optimistic about the near future.
Many businesses in the state faced restrictions and closures throughout the pandemic, but restaurant employees were the ones that kept working on the front-lines and putting their own lives at risk.
"We worked the whole year without really any protection, especially last March when we didn't really know what was happening" said Kate Doncilovic.
She is the chef and kitchen manager at White Pie, a pizzeria in downtown Colorado Springs that opened last month. "Now, you can see a light at the end of the tunnel."
Doncilovic didn't waste time in getting her vaccine. She got her first round of the vaccination last week, and a handful of other employees have gotten theirs too.
"It feels good to be able to be protected, because we are here with people not wearing their masks, that's part of the dining experience," said Doncilovic. "I feel good about it, and I'm ready for everyone to be able to get the vaccine."
Access to the vaccine has been a long time coming for others in the Colorado Springs restaurant industry like Andres Velez, who is the the chef owner of Anju Korean Eats, a vendor in Coati Uprise downtown.
"I'm trying to get vaccinated and will be talking to my staff about it very soon," said Velez. "We're trying to get everybody vaccinated so we can get back to normal."
Velez also owns Piglatin Cocina, and has been serving customers for the past year during the pandemic.
"The vaccine means a lot because we're always wondering, who are we talking to? A random person could've infected us, so having some kind of safety net has definitely helped us move in the right direction," said Velez.
He now hopes more people getting the vaccine means moving in the right direction and making it safer for everyone.
"I hope that customers understand that us getting vaccinated is keeping everyone safer," said Velez. "The more we all follow through, the safer it's going to be for all of us."
The COVID-19 vaccine isn't required, but restaurant owners and manager are encouraging their employees and staff to get one.
For those who do want to get the shot, the state it making it easy. Restaurant workers in Colorado will get their own COVID-19 vaccine clinic, which will be taking place in four counties including El Paso County. Those clinics are happening on Tuesday and Wednesday.