VANCOUVER — As some British Columbia businesses prepare to reopen their doors on Tuesday when the province enters the second phase of its COVID-19 restart plan, others say they’re holding off while they grapple with new health protocols.
Some say they haven’t had enough time to implement industry-specific public health protocols that were released by the province on Friday and aim to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus while ramping up economic activity.
Claire Wyrostok owns the Black Lodge, a pub featuring vegetarian and vegan fare in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, which won’t be reopening for dine-in service right away.
“I definitely can’t ask my staff to work when I can’t guarantee them a safe environment,” she said. “And I can’t do that without the recommendations of WorkSafeBC.”
Wyrostok said there’s not enough time to implement all of WorkSafe BC’s protocols by Tuesday.
The WorkSafeBC protocols for restaurants range from using large menu boards or disposable menus instead of traditional ones, to installing decals on the floor to control the flow of customers, to minimizing the use of shared kitchen equipment and appliances.
“Something as simple as picking up a plate and putting it in the dishwasher and then taking a clean dish out at the same time — you can’t do that anymore,” said Wyrostok, who’s also concerned the guidelines leave room for interpretation.
“I worry that’s going to make it hard for the public to know what to expect between different establishments,” she said.
An intoxicated patron recently ignored the restaurant’s physical distancing boundaries while picking up a takeout order, she noted.
In order to reopen, all businesses must also have a COVID-19 safety plan in place, for which WorkSafeBC is providing a template.
The head of prevention services for the agency, Al Johnson, has said about 300 prevention officers will oversee enforcement.
Kin Kao, a 32-seat Thai restaurant along Vancouver’s Commercial Drive will also remain closed for dine-in service. Owner Terrence Feng said it’s too soon for them to reopen and Kin Kao will continue to rely on takeout and delivery orders for the time being.
“Opening up a small space where people have the opportunity to sit down and actually be closer and then flipping that table and another party coming in — that to me is just a recipe for disaster,” he said.
“Responsibility to the community and also to our staff and our customers outweighs the financial pressure that we’re under.”
It would cost up to $10,000 for Kin Kao to hire staff and build up its inventory in order to reopen, Feng added.
He’s concerned that’s a risky bet if transmission of the virus flares up again, forcing B.C. to scale back its restart plans.
In addition to restaurants, cafes and pubs, businesses and services that are allowed to reopen on Tuesday include retailers, recreation facilities, libraries, museums and child care facilities, as well as personal service establishments such as hair salons and barbers.
Registered massage therapy, physiotherapy, dentistry, in-person counselling and similar health services may also reopen according to the industry-specific guidelines from WorkSafeBC.
CuR Laser and Skin in Vancouver is set to reopen this week, owner and medical director Dr. Kumar Shivdasani said.
The cosmetic clinic already had systems in place that made it easier to make the requisite changes, he noted.
Shivdasani, who also works at Vancouver General Hospital, said he realized early on in the outbreak that personal protective equipment might be in short supply. He leveraged his connections to procure masks, gloves, face shields and goggles.
Staff at the clinic will don all of that equipment while treating clients who will also be provided with masks and have their temperature checked with a touchless thermometer that’s due to arrive in about a week, said Shivdasani.
The clinic is booking clients an extra 15 minutes apart to allow for thorough cleaning and disposal of used materials, he said, and no appointments will be confirmed unless clients have completed a health questionnaire to make sure they are free of symptoms.
Shivdasani said he appreciates the guidelines from WorkSafeBC, though he’s in touch with other doctors who run similar clinics and he feels the measures they’ve come up with are “a little bit more involved and detailed.”
Other businesses and services must wait until the third phase of the province’s restart plan, set to start in June and last through September, provided the transmission rate of the virus remains low or in decline.
Phase three would include the reopening of hotels and resorts, as well as domestic film production starting in June or July followed by select entertainment such as movies and symphonies.