(Update: Adding video, comments)
'It's been a long time coming'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Many people across Central Oregon have been able to work remotely since the onset of the pandemic, but grocery store employees are one of the largest groups that has never had that as an option.
But according to the Oregon Health Authority, those on the frontlines are now finally eligible for a COVID-19, after months of patiently waiting since the initial rollout in Deschutes County back in December.
Aaron Price, the store director for Food 4 Less in Bend, says it's been a long time coming.
"General feeling is that grocery employees should have been one of the first groups to go," Price said Wednesday. "There's a lot of anxious people out there, being as exposed as we have been for the last 13 months."
Price says his employees never had the option to work from home, and he feels you would be hard-pressed to find a more exposed industry.
But providing an everyday service to the community kept his team pushing forward.
"We're literally here for the community," Price said. "We wore it as a badge of honor, you know, that we were still going to work every day and putting health and safety on the line."
Several workers we spoke with said getting the vaccine is not only professionally important, but personally as well.
One of those workers is Leesa Hicks, who works as the person in charge for Food 4 Less.
"I have an appointment Friday morning before work, and I'm super-excited," Hicks said.
Hicks said she lives with her elderly mother, so an opportunity to avoid getting her sick is one she'll take.
And other workers, like Newport Avenue Market Store Manager Erika Maloley, share a similar sentiment.
"Today, I received a text message saying that I was eligible for a vaccine and was able to schedule it for Friday," Maloley said. "It pretty much almost brought me to tears."
Maloley says just like any other business, their store did not have a pandemic playbook, but they continued to adapt, and they hope to reach the finish line soon.