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Some Saskatchewan businesses wary about reopening due to coronavirus safety concerns

Some Saskatchewan businesses wary about reopening due to safety concerns
WATCH: The first phase of the Reopen Saskatchewan plan kicks in on May 4, but some business owners are wary of the plan.

Shuttered shops and services in Saskatchewan will start to reopen on Monday amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, but some business owners are hesitant to unlock their doors.

Shawn Moen, CEO and co-founder of 9 Mile Legacy Brewing, said it’s unlikely he’ll open the taproom to the public as soon as the province gives the go-ahead.

“Unless we’re comfortable that our staff and the public are safe, we won’t operate. Period,” Moen told Global News.

READ MORE: Northern Saskatchewan ‘scrambling’ to control outbreaks as province moves to reopen

Phase 1 of the province’s reopening plan kicks in on Monday, starting with medical services. The opening date for Phase 3 businesses like 9 Mile is to be determined.

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“We’re constantly going to assess whether it’s safe for us to open regardless of whether we’re permitted to open,” Moen said.

“We all have the obligation as members of the community and as business owners to closely examine public health data and make decisions with the safety of our staff and the public as the ultimate priority, putting profitability aside.”

Once restaurants can open, they’ll only be allowed to operate at half capacity, according to the province’s reopening plan.

Even a half-full taproom could pose a risk to staff and patrons, Moen said.

“My concern is that some businesses will take the risk of operating a little bit above those limits and not do it safely,” he said.

Shawn Moen, CEO of 9 Mile Legacy Brewing, hopes financial support continues for businesses that choose not to reopen as soon as it’s permitted.
Shawn Moen, CEO of 9 Mile Legacy Brewing, hopes financial support continues for businesses that choose not to reopen as soon as it’s permitted. Devon Latchuk / Global News

Odd Couple Restaurant owner Andy Yuen has the same concern. He said physical distancing isn’t easy in restaurants, which are high-touch, high-traffic spaces.

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“Obviously, we want to be open as much as anybody else,” Yuen said.

“From a safety point of view, it’s kind of challenging for us to make sure my staff are safe and customers are safe.”

Moen said he’d like to hear more from the province about testing and tracing the novel coronavirus.

“It’s incredibly hard as a community to plan for events like this if we don’t have an idea as to where the virus is and what the risk factors are,” he said.

“We need that data so that we can quickly assess whether a place is safe to be in … or safe to operate.”

READ MORE: 'New normal' — Saskatchewan dentists prepare to accept more patients under COVID-19 protocols

Phase 2 businesses, including hair salons, can open on May 19.

On its website, High Noon Barber Shop said it will wait to reopen with Phase 3 businesses.

“(We have concerns), such as being able to regularly secure enough PPE (personal protective equipment) and hand sanitizer without competing with health-care workers and recently opened dental offices,” the shop said.

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“There should be more time between Phase 1 and Phase 2 to see what effect this plan will have on us all.”

Moen said he hopes government support doesn’t dry up for businesses that don’t reopen right away.

“When we’re … deciding whether or not we’re going to open, of course, we’ll be thinking of the competitive disadvantage that comes with not opening,” he said.

“There needs to be a lot of support … for those that decide not to open because they’re prioritizing safety.”

Both 9 Mile and Odd Couple have been getting by on delivery sales and expect to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“There’s nothing more important than our health,” Yuen said.

“If we can get away with surviving on takeout and delivery for now, then we will.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here