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Bay Area restaurants incentivize shots, try to adapt as COVID-19 and flu cases rise

Bay Area restaurants try to weather latest challenge of rising COVID & flu cases
Bay Area restaurants try to weather latest challenge of rising COVID & flu cases 02:42

SAN JOSE – With cases of COVID-19, influenza and other viruses on the rise, Bay Area restaurants are once again grappling with staffing shortages and coming up with creative ways to encourage workers to get their booster shots.

"I think that just about every flu season, something comes through a restaurant or it comes through a place of business and it just gets a lot of people," says Nick Sepulvado, General Manager of Jack Holder's Restaurant in San Jose.

Sepulvado said the flu or some other virus spread through his kitchen and wait staff like a wildfire a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Thankfully, he says things have settled down since but he knows the restaurant isn't out of the woods yet.

"The difference is when you talk to people over the phone when they're calling out sick you can really hear immediately, 'Oh, you're calling out sick,'" he said.

Sepulvado said the restaurant encourages but no longer requires employees to get the latest vaccine.

"We would rather have people be preventatively safe than have to miss time for work," said Laurie Thomas, Executive Director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

Thomas also owns two restaurants in the city -- Rose's Cafe and Terzo. She's now offering employees a financial incentive to get boosted.

"We wanted to proactively tell everybody, 'Hey, if you can show me proof of your bivalent vaccine, which we know we can help you get at Walgreens, anywhere in the city right now for free, we'll pay you guys $100 as an employee, just a straight up bonus in the next pay period,'" Thomas told KPIX 5.

Sepulvado said there's little appetite in the restaurant industry for a return to masking or outdoor-only dining. He said the industry realizes the best way to prevent infection is vaccines.

"During the pandemic, at its height, I think it was really important that everyone to get vaccinated and everyone do what they can to protect the community as a whole," he said.

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