Some small businesses in Nova Scotia are forging on with COVID-19 protective measures, despite the lifting of restrictions in the province, as rising case numbers prompt workforce shortages.
Juliette Marks, the co-owner of the Italian Market in Halifax, is among those business owners doing all they can to keep their doors open.
“Half of our staff got COVID and as I’m sitting in isolation in my bedroom at home with my computer, I’m recruiting staff, trying to backfill so we can stay open,” she said.
The province lifted most restrictions three weeks ago on March 21, including mask mandates in indoor public spaces.
Masking, however, is still strongly recommended.
When sick calls started piling on, employers turned to their teams to hash out a game plan.
“It was almost like a voluntary response. All their masks went back on. We haven’t had to mandate anything with our staff, they just voluntarily put them back on,” said Marks.
Fellow Halifax business owner Andrew Feenstra said he’s dealing with 11 staff members off sick with COVID-19 currently.
That’s nearly half of his business’s employees. In response, Cyclesmith — a bike store on Agricola Street – is moving back to safety measures they relied on during the early days of the pandemic.
“We went back to curbside pick-up, online shopping only, no in-store shopping right now,” said Feenstra.
“That’s for multiple reasons but the big thing is I can’t take the risk of losing more staff, and spreading it in our community.”
In an effort to keep people informed and safe, volunteers who have led the rapid testing charge in the province created an online tool that lists businesses with some safety measures still in place.
The group, called Test to Protect, have dubbed their online tool #COVIDsafer Places.
“It started as volunteers knowing about places and calling them to learn a little bit more about their COVID safer practices,” said Barbara Goodall, Test to Protect’s coordinator.
“Do they encourage masking for their guests? Their staff? Some of those examples. And, now there is a website where people can submit one of their COVID safer places.”
Cafe Good Luck in Dartmouth is one of the businesses in the guide. Staff masking and only doing take-out service are two measures they’ve kept in place.
“It makes me feel more comfortable as someone who is in customer service dealing with many, many people,” said Sawyer Carnegie, who works at the restaurant.
“The owner sat down with each of us and talked about personally how we felt about it, and we just decided. It’s a really small space, a lot of us haven’t had COVID so we’re just going to keep most of the guidelines we were doing.”
— With a file from Rebecca Lau