This month ushered in a new world for Burnaby businesses as the province moved to Step 3 of the BC Restart Plan and most COVID-19 public health restrictions were repealed.
And as we all move through this new phase, I would like to encourage everyone reading to have a little patience for one another and for our business community during this time.
While the mask mandate which came into effect back in November was the most visible COVID-19 precaution, businesses had actually been operating under pandeic safety plans for well over a year, since the initial re-opening back in the spring of 2020.
It was at this time that businesses installed the Plexiglas barriers in front of cashiers, the one-way arrows on the floor, and limited the numbers in their stores and offices. Since then, daily worker health checks and mask requirements were added to the list of measures businesses were required to undertake.
Let’s remember that businesses faced fines and risked closure if they were not in compliance, and many were forced to take on the difficult task of enforcement of these public health measures with the general public, as retail businesses often became the front lines of public debates around measures such as mask wearing.
After a year of this, these measures became ingrained into the routines and processes of many businesses, and understandably it will be a slow process to undo them all and transition back to more normal ways of conducting business. That’s why I’m hoping Burnaby consumers and customers will be patient and understanding as they engage with our local business community over the coming weeks.
The new rules leave much up to the discretion of individual businesses. So yes, you may find stores which still ask you to wear a mask, you may still encounter some capacity limits in stores, or you may still see a barrier between you and the people serving you. But know that behind each mask or plastic divider is a business owner or manager trying their best to balance the latest health recommendations with the comfort and preferences of their employees and customers, while also trying to operate a business during an extremely challenging time.
Conversely, some businesses and customers may be ready to move more quickly to this new normal, and that is ok too. You may encounter businesses which are not requiring masks, have lifted capacity limits, or where customers move freely about the store. This is a good thing, and is where we should all be hoping to get to as the pandemic becomes less acute. These businesses are no less interested in COVID safety or in the comfort of their employees or customers, and they are also doing their best to follow the recommendations of our public health officials who are the ones telling us it is safe to reopen more fully.
Therefore, whether you still choose to wear a mask or you don’t, or whether you’re ready to book that large table at local restaurant or you’re just not quite there yet, let’s all have patience for one another as we navigate this next, unprecedented stage in our pandemic journey, and look forward to a summer which is closer to normal than we’ve all seen in a long time.
Paul Holden is the president and CEO of the Burnaby Board of Trade, the chamber of commerce for the Burnaby business community. Find them at BBOT.ca.