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B.C. businesses brace for maskless future as province embarks on restart

Last Updated May 27, 2021 at 11:56 pm PDT


Karima Jivraj owns a Bosley's pet store in New Westminster, says the announcement came as a bit of a surprise

Masks became mandatory in November of 2020, prior to that some businesses were already requiring face coverings

NEW WESTMINSTER (CityNews) — B.C.’s Restart Plan says by as early as July, wearing a face mask could be recommended instead of mandatory, and for some retail workers that is a concern.

Karima Jivraj owns a Bosley’s pet store in New Westminster, and says the announcement came as a bit of a surprise.

“My initial reaction was, ‘What? Isn’t it too soon?’ she explains.

“But we have to follow what public health thinks is appropriate. I will be taking my cue not just from public health, but also from our team at head office who will determine what the policy is right across the board so that all the stores are following the same policy.”

Masks became mandatory in November of 2020. Prior to that, some businesses were already requiring face coverings for customers.

Jivraj says if the province lifts the mask mandate, she will have to balance what is best for staff and customers with guidance from public health officials.

“I also have to take my cue from what my team is comfortable with. I am not going to do something that they are not comfortable with. I am not sure by July 1 all of my team will be vaccinated and they will still be waiting for appointments based on their age groups and stuff like that,” she says.

Jivraj still plans to follow the usual sanitation protocols at her store…including having hand sanitizer at the door, and disinfecting spaces as much as possible. She hopes customers everywhere will do their part.

“We all need to do the best we can. We all need to be patient, and those of you shopping in retail — please be kind and patient with retail workers. It’s really hard on them, they’re doing the best they can given the guidelines.”

RELATED: When B.C. ends mask mandate, many say they’ll keep covered

Greg Wilson with the Retail Council of Canada says there will likely be anxiety as rules relax.

“Yes, there is going to be a transition, and there is going to be a lot of people who are going to be uncomfortable with coworkers or customers who aren’t wearing masks, particularly immediately when that transition happens. Some won’t have had their second vaccination, and so they might be anxious for that reason,” he explains, agreeing with Jivraj that immunization will be key to people’s comfort.

“I heard a good analogy the other day, that the mask is like an all-star defenceman, but the vaccination is like an all-star goaltender.”

For those who may be anxious about the shift, Dr. Bonnie Henry has this piece of advice.

“It needs to be a slow progression, we should still be wearing masks in indoor common public spaces if there’s crowds, if we can’t keep our distance from somebody, for those short periods of time,” she said.

“I envision that even though the legal mandate is not there anymore, we will go back to using masks as an important piece of keeping others safe, showing respect, particularly when we’re in those settings when transmission can happen more easily.”