Among the numerous points that B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made while announcing new health orders at the B.C. COVID-19 update on November 7, in response to the province's rapidly escalating case numbers, was about food and beverage establishments.
Although Henry issued new health orders restricting four main areas—social gatherings, group physical activities, travel, and workplaces—plus perimeter-seating vehicles (party buses, limousines), she also specifically talked about restaurants.
On October 26, Henry had said that they had not been seeing transmission in restaurants that had been following safety plans carefully. Previously announced restrictions, such as limiting six people to a table, no table hopping, or maintaining physical distancing, remain in place.
Consequently, she had said they were not considering shutting down all restaurants. Accordingly, restaurants are not among the closures in this latest round of public health orders.
In addition, deputy health officer Dr. Réka Gustafson had said at the B.C. COVID-19 briefing on November 2 that holding an event at a restaurant or venue where a safety plan is in place is safer than holding it at someone’s private residence, as she said numerous businesses have learned how to operate safely during the pandemic. However, for the next two weeks, this won’t be an option for those in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions as Henry has banned all social gatherings that involve anyone outside of immediate household members.
However, Henry did say on November 7 that they are seeing transmission in restaurants that fail to follow safety measures.
She said that health officers have shut down some restaurants already that weren’t operating safely.
Also, she warned that they will be cracking down on eateries that aren’t following or are slipping in their adherence to rules. Active inspections by public health, bylaw officers, and WorkSafeBC in Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health are being increased.
“We will be paying attention particularly to restaurants because we know it can become an environment where we have seen transmission to large numbers of people when these rules aren’t being followed,” she said.
For any restaurants that are unable to maintain a safety plan, she recommended considering alternate business models, such as take-out-only.
Anyone who wants to support eateries but feels uncomfortable dining at the physical location can check for options such as take-out or delivery.
Restaurants and stores
Many food establishments that have had cases confirmed on their premises have voluntarily shut down for sanitization, even though regional health authorities did not direct them to do so. However, Henry had previously thanked these business owners for being proactive in working to prevent any potential spread of the virus.
Henry had also previously said that they are not seeing transmission between staff and customers in general.
There have been some exposure events at food and beverage establishments in recent weeks. Exposure events are publicly announced by regional health authorities when not all of those present can be located by contact tracers.
Here are some exposure events that have taken place in restaurants in recent weeks.
In Abbotsford, there were exposure events at Bow and Stern (2551 Montrose Avenue) from October 24 to 26 and from October 29 to November 1.
In Fraser Health, Baselines Pub (8233 166 Street) in Surrey from 5 to 11 p.m. on October 23, 24, and 26, as well as from 9:30 to 11 p.m. on October 25.
On Vancouver Island, Island Health added an exposure incident at Tofino Brewing Co. (691 Industrial Way) in Tofino during business hours on October 27.
Meanwhile, several stores have also been proactive in announcing cases confirmed on their premises.
Among the companies that publicly announce confirmed cases among employees are Loblaw and Sobeys. However, other companies, such as Walmart, do not list their stores that have staff members who tested positive.
Here are the stores that reported employees testing positive over the past two weeks.
Loblaw reported the following Real Canadian Superstore locations with staff members who tested positive:
• 19851 Willowbrook Drive in Langley, where two employees who tested positive last worked there on October 24 and 25;
• 45779 Luckakuck Way store in Chilliwack, where an employee who tested positive was last there on October 27;
• 7550 King George Highway in Surrey, where an employee who tested positive last worked there on October 29;
• 14560 104th Avenue in Surrey, where two employees who tested positive were last there on October 30 and November 3;
• 8195 Scott Road in Delta, with the last exposure date on October 25;
Loblaw also reported three locations of Shoppers Drug Mart where staff members tested positive:
- 3020 West Broadway in Vancouver, where the employee last worked on October 25;
- 6508 East Hastings Street in Burnaby, where the employee last worked on October 28;
- 4295 Blackcomb Way in Whistler, with the last exposure date on October 28;
- 4827 Kingsway in Burnaby, with the last exposure date on November 1.
Loblaw also reported two location of No Frills where staff members tested positive:
• an employee who tested positive last worked at the 12852 96th Avenue location in Surrey on October 25;
• an employee who tested positive last worked at the 34249 Marshall Road location Abbotsford on October 31.
Also, an employee at Loblaws City Market who tested positive last worked at the 1650 Lonsdale Avenue location in North Vancouver on November 4.
Sobeys announced that an employee at Thrifty Foods (102–15745 Croydon Drive) in Surrey, who last worked at the location on October 26, tested positive.
An employee who tested positive last worked at FreshCo (27566 Fraser Highway) in Aldergrove on October 28.
In Vancouver’s West End, an employee who tested positive last worked at the Safeway at 1611 Davie Street on November 1.