(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

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Most Read