(Black Press Media file)

B.C.’s restaurant industry wants in on the rush COVID-19 shot list

‘Front-end workers of restaurants are more exposed than retail and grocery,’ says restaurant association president

By Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer

As British Columbia continues to map out who is next in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, restaurant and food service workers are still showing up to work, handling dirty dishes and speaking to maskless patrons in an enclosed environment.

And that’s why Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, has put out a request to the province for food service workers to be included in the vaccine rollout plan.

On Thursday, the province announced grocery store workers, teachers, postal workers and others will get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine sometime in April. All adults in the province will have a vaccination available to them before July 1, the province said.

“We know how challenging this pandemic has been on our front-line workers,” said Premier John Horgan.

“Many of these people have come to work throughout this pandemic, continuing to teach and care for our children, stock the shelves of our local grocery store and keep our communities safe. By immunizing these front-line workers, we are making workplaces and communities throughout our province safer.”

Tostenson, whose association helped create a reopening plan for dine-in services back in April, says the effort has been a success, but everyone working in the industry still faces a high level of risk. Front-of-house workers, although masked, have to handle half-finished food and talk to customers, who are unmasked and eating.

“I think people forget that the front-end workers of restaurants are more exposed than retail and grocery because of (the way a restaurant operates),” he said. “Not to sort of put anybody ahead of anybody, everybody’s important … we’re not saying it at the expense of anyone else.”

Vaccines would not only give workers peace of mind, he says, but the move could help people feel more confident about dining indoors. Tostenson said he’s still hearing that some people are nervous to go out to eat.

Although it’s still inconclusive whether people can spread the virus after receiving their shot, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: “A growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection and potentially less likely to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others.” The CDC notes, however, that further investigation is ongoing.

“So, I think if the public said, `Boy, the restaurant industry is vaccinated, I feel better about going to restaurants now,’ that’s going to help. It’s going to accelerate our return to some sort of normal economic stability,” Tostenson said.

Pushing restaurant workers up on the vaccination priority list makes sense, says Kelly Gordon, who owns Romer’s Burger Bar. He says many people in the industry are younger, meaning they’re set to be among the last to get vaccinated.

“When I kind of take a step back, and you know, all the businesses I interact with, there’s very few businesses that get more personal contact,” he said.

“We think that there’s a good argument there. It would certainly go a long way in the consumer’s mind … the perception would be that we’d be a safer place to be.”

Gordon says he has heard first-hand how stressful it has been for people working in restaurants during the pandemic. The peace of mind vaccines would give the industry can’t be overstated, he said.

“It’s a very hard job,” he said. “It’s a lot of pressure on management … there’s definitely a lot of stress on people. It’d be really nice to have everybody all vaccinated up, so everybody can feel confident coming on in.”

However, there is an air of optimism, says Tostenson.

The province has continued to redefine what an essential worker is — and Tostenson hopes his industry will soon be part of the equation. With the COVID-19 count sitting at around 500 cases a day and new variants still a concern, he says it makes sense.

“(More vaccines being available) is really exciting. It really is. And it’s exciting for our industry because they have restructured, they’ve recapitalized, they’ve rethought everything,” he said.

“And so when they do come back at full strength, things will be better than before, in my opinion.”

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Teresa Hedley and a copy of her book, “What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism.” Photo supplied
Comox Library recognizes Autism Awareness Month with presentation by local author

April is World Autism Awareness Month, an annual opportunity to increase understanding… Continue reading

A donated towel warms a merlin chick. Photo supplied
MARS Moment: 2021 shaping up to be a record-setting year for animal rescues

Submitted by Jane Sproull Thomson Special to Black Press With the pandemic,… Continue reading

Comox council will further look at a troublesome traffic area in the Point Holmes area of the town. Photo submitted
Comox council to look at speed calming measures at Point Holmes

“…We are waiting for a problem to happen if we don’t act.”

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
19 Wing Comox crew involved in three-tonne cocaine seizure worth more than $293 million

12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron involved in Op Caribbe

File photo of Gord Johns during World Oceans Day.
Courtenay-Alberni MP outlines priorities for federal budget

Universal pharmacare, affordable housing and Pacific wild salmon are some of the… Continue reading

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

NIC’s new president Lisa Domae assumed the role April 12. Domae has worked at NIC since 2000, most recently as executive vp academic and chief operating officer. Photo supplied
New North Island College president launches draft strategic plan

North Island College’s new president, Lisa Domae, kicked off her first official… Continue reading

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nootka Sound RCMP and DFO Conservation and Protection Officers seized this 30 foot vessel, fishing gear and equipment as well as Chinook salmon, salmon roe, rock fish and ling cod after an investigation on Sept. 11. A judge in Campbell River on February hit the owner and his accomplices with significant fines, a ban on holding fishing licences and loss of equpment, including the boat’s motor and trolling motor. RCMP photo
Washington State trio’s fisheries violations the worst veteran officer has seen in 20 years

Judge bans three men from fishing or holding a fishing licence anywhere in Canada

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Most Read