Park Place Lodge

Late yesterday, BC Premier John Horgan announced BC’s Restart Plan – the first details on a phased approach to re-opening our economy and society to eventually arrive at our “new normal” here in the province. I know our business community here in Fernie is anxious to understand next steps, and how and when businesses can get back open. The plan announced yesterday is built on a framework of four phases to re-opening.

Phase 1 (Where we are today)
Essential Services Operating During COVID-19:
Essential health and health services, Law enforcement, public safety, first responders and emergency response personnel, Vulnerable population service providers, Critical infrastructure, Food and agriculture service providers, Transportation, Industry and manufacturing, Sanitation, Communications and information technology, Financial institutions, Other non-health essential service providers

Industries that were designated as essential services developed safe operation plans in consultation with WorkSafeBC and in compliance with the public health orders issued by the Provincial Health Officer.

As a result, B.C.’s economy has continued to operate in ways other provinces haven’t. But it’s undeniable that local businesses have suffered.

Many businesses closed for other reasons, including reduced demand, such as in the retail, hospitality and export industries. Others closed to do their part in helping to flatten the curve, protecting their customers and employees.

To help these businesses and other organizations get back on their feet, we need workplace practices that ensure British Columbians feel safe, whether they are returning to work or going out as a customer. That means employers will need to engage with their employees to find the right solutions and consider the concerns and needs of their customers.

Phase 2 (mid-May onward)
Under enhanced protocols:

Restoration of health services
– Re-scheduling elective surgery
Medically related services:
– Dentistry, physiotherapy, registered massage therapy, and chiropractors
– Physical therapy, speech therapy, and similar services
Retail sector
Hair salons, barbers, and other personal service establishments
In-person counselling
Restaurants, cafes, and pubs (with sufficient distancing measures)
Museums, art galleries, and libraries
Office-based worksites
Recreation and sports
Parks, beaches, and outdoor spaces
Child care

Phase 3 (June to September)
If transmission rates remain low or in decline, under enhanced protocols:

Hotels and Resorts (June 2020)
Parks – broader reopening, including some overnight camping (June 2020)
Film industry – beginning with domestic productions (June/July 2020)
Select entertainment – movies and symphony, but not large concerts (July 2020)
Post-secondary education – with mix of online and in-class (September 2020)
K-12 education – with only a partial return this school year (September 2020)

Phase 4 (Timing to be determined)
Conditional on at least one of the following; wide vaccination, “community” immunity, broad successful treatments:

Activities requiring large gatherings, such as:
– Conventions
– Live audience professional sports
– Concerts
International tourism

The timing of a safe restart of night clubs, casinos and bars is a more complicated consideration. As with other sectors, industry associations will be expected to develop safe operations plans, for review, that are in keeping with Public Health and Safety Guidelines, as well as WorkSafeBC.

How This Will Work For Your Business

Many of you will have questions on the specifics of your particular industry, and how to prepare your business for this “new normal”. In BC, specific guidelines and best practices for re-opening will be developed within each industry. Provincial industry associations will collate these guidelines, vet them and present them to government health authorities. Once approved by the Ministry of Health and WorkSafeBC, these guidelines will be made available to specific industries to adopt.

For Fernie, the three biggest industry associations to keep an eye for most of our businesses that deal with the public face-to-face would be:

British Columbia Restaurant & Food Services Association
British Columbia Hotel Association
Retail Council of Canada

After yesterday’s press conference, Ian Tostenson (President & CEO of the BC Restaurant & Food Services Association – who was in Fernie last June to talk to our members at a staffing workshop) was interviewed and indicated that the restaurant industry in BC had submitted its re-opening guidelines to government a week ago. He is confident that restaurants should be ready to consider reopening around June 1 once these plans are approved.

The Retail Council of Canada has already released some excellent guidelines, checklists and ideas in their Retail Recovery Playbook.

The Premier yesterday indicated that all this information, guidelines and best practices will be collated by WorkSafeBC – this is your best place to start if you have specific questions about safely re-opening your business. Their Returning to Safe Operations page is a particularly useful place to start. They also have a phone number for businesses with specific questions – 1.888.621.7233

There are four major considerations for your business when looking at creating a safe working environment:
Physical distancing measures – measures to reduce the density of people
Engineering controls – physical barriers (like plexiglass at checkouts) or increased ventilation
Administrative controls – clear rules and guidelines
Personal protective equipment – like the use of non-medical masks

Employers will be required to:

Review the new Health and Safety Guidelines, best practices and other resources from WorkSafeBC
Adapt these materials into appropriate COVID-19 Safe Plans for your workplace

Ultimately, the key message I want to get across to all Fernie businesses is simply this:

If customers don’t feel safe interacting with your business, they won’t.

There will be a lot of supports and guidance, but the sole responsibility rests on each business owner and manager to do what is right for your model, your space, your staff and your customers. Do not consider re-opening until you have all of your plans and new procedures in place. Talk to your teams, talk to your customers. Demonstrate you are going above and beyond to protect people’s safety.

The other thing I will be asking for in the coming weeks and months is consistency. While I appreciate you may be competitors, talk to other local businesses in your industry and compare notes. Let’s try to make the customer experience consistent across all our businesses. Not only will this build consumer confidence, it will make it much easier for agencies like the Fernie Chamber, Tourism Fernie and the City of Fernie to communicate what is happening on the ground to our stakeholders – locals and visitors.

Above all else, the Fernie Chamber is here to help you. If you are lost in this sea of new information – please reach out. We look forward to seeing our economy fully re-opening, but we want to ensure the risk of a flare-up of cases in our area is minimized. Take the time to get your plans right. And when you are ready to re-open – please reach out to us at the Chamber and let us know what you’re doing to address the “new normal” so we can support you and help you get the word out.

Be kind. Be calm. Be safe.

You’ve got this,

Brad Parsell – Executive Director
250 423 6868

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