(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

Just Posted

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
PHOTOS: Vehicle driven into Saanich Walmart removed after two trapped workers rescued

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Jim Hogan is Ladysmith’s famed ‘Moon Boot Man’. (Submitted photo)
Ladysmith’s ‘Moon Boot Man’ over the moon with community support

Jim Hogan has been jogging Ladysmith’s streets with his signature Kangoo-Jump boots since 2002

Imogene Lim, a Vancouver Island University anthropology professor, has received a Province of B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship. (Black Press file)
VIU anthropology professor receives B.C. Good Citizenship medal

Imogene Lim’s work includes advocacy for establishing Chinese heritage sites

Berwick by the Sea resident Hilda Shilliday, 91, is ready to participate in the Grandmothers to Grandmothers’ Stride to turn the Tide fundraising event that runs April 11-25. Register on the event website for a fee of $20 which goes to support the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s work in Africa, then do any kind of exercise, log the time, distance or whatever and be eligible for a prize package. Photo contributed
91-year-old Vancouver Islander ready to Stride to Turn the Tide

Campbell River’s Hilda Shilliday encourages everyone to support African grandmothers

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Most Read