The day after Victoria Day long weekend in B.C. this year marks an important milestone in the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday May 19, some businesses will be allowed to start reopening after a two-month long closure induced by the need to curb the spread of a virus that threatened to overrun our health care system if left unchecked.

The threat of the novel coronavirus has, by all accounts and evidence, been brought to a standstill in B.C. (at least for the time being), prompting public health officials to explore ways in which the economy and public life can safely and partially restart.

Over the past two weeks, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been collaborating with agencies like WorkSafeBC to come up with reopening guidelines for businesses like restaurants, hair salons, and retailers.

See also: “Fewer faces, bigger spaces”: How to safely expand your social circle in B.C. 

First and foremost, these guidelines require businesses to create and publicly post a COVID-19 safety plan for customers and employees to see, either on their website or on a storefront window.

Employers do not need to get those plans approved by either public health officials or WorkSafeBC before moving forward with reopening.

However, the province is implementing a complaints-based system through which employees who feel that adequate safeguards against COVID-19 are not available in their workplace can report to WorkSafeBC.

Consumers and patrons who may want to report lackluster protocols can contact public health officials in their region.

Authorities will then follow up with businesses through an inspection, during which employers must present their COVID-19 safe reopening plans.

From May 19 onward, these plans will be put into practice as various types of businesses start opening their doors.

Here’s a look at what protocols for businesses like restaurants, personal services, and retail stores should entail.

Restaurants, cafés, pubs

Establishments that serve food and liquor were originally reduced to take-out and delivery service only as part of British Columbia’s COVID-19 response plan.

Starting May 19, these businesses can once again open their doors and offer dine-in service but will only be allowed to accommodate half the customers they could previously fit inside the premises.

This means eateries may accumulate line-ups of people waiting to enter. To accommodate waiting guests, businesses need to come up with ways to rearrange waiting areas and use things like stanchions and floor tape to space people in lines six feet apart.

When inside, patrons will be restricted to groups of six per table, and each table must be spaced six feet apart. Customers from different parties must sit six feet apart when seated at a bar or counter.

Instead of physical menus, these businesses are asked to use digital menu boards, large chalkboards, or online pre-ordering to minimize contacts.

In a similar vein, table top items like salt and pepper shakers, sauce dispensers, and candles will no longer be a part of the dining experience status quo. Those who want these amenities will have to request them from the establishment.

Buffets and other self-serve options will not be allowed under the current circumstances. Instead, servers are required to place food and drinks at the head of each table and step away, after which guests can pass them around after the waiter has stepped away.

Wherever possible, eateries are also advised to note down the contact information for one customer from each party and save it for 30 days in case a medical health officer needs that information for contact tracing purposes.

Businesses in the food industry, like every other establishment moving forward, will be required to provide an updated and enhanced cleaning protocol featuring rigorous sanitization of communal items that are used by more than one group of people.

More information and resources on how restaurants, cafés, and pubs can build their reopening plan can be found here.

Retail stores

Retail stores were among businesses that were not required to shut down by any official order, but many decided to do so anyway in the absence of clear guidelines for how to operate safely.

Now that WorkSafeBC has issued more information on the subject, retail stores must follow much the same protocols as those used by grocery stores when serving customers at a physical location.

Stores are required to determine an occupancy limit — one that allows customers to maintain a distance of six feet from each other while inside — and post that limit at the entrance.

These businesses are also advised to rearrange store layout and areas where it may be difficult to maintain physical distances, like waiting areas, fitting rooms, elevators, and check out areas.

Stores that have fitting rooms should get rid of all decorative items from inside the room, and employees will no longer hand out tokens to customers to mark the number of items to try on.

Customers trying on clothing will be required to leave unwanted items, including hangers, in a designated location.

Where rearrangement is not possible, stores are asked to consider requiring both customers and employees to wear non-medical masks as a way to prevent the spread of droplets that may carry COVID-19.

Patrons of retail outlets can expect to see signage that asks them not to enter if they’re displaying symptoms of the virus, and physical markers like cones or floor tape to ensure that everyone lining up to enter is maintaining a distance of six feet between each other.

At the checkout desk, retail stores will be required to provide plexiglass barriers and hand sanitizer for customers to use.

And while the use of cash will not be disallowed, hygiene practices like washing or sanitizing hands after handling cash must be in place, and all patrons will be encouraged to use the tap feature on their credit or debit cards to make payments.

More information and resources on how retailers can build their reopening plan can be found here.

Personal services (hair salons, tattoo parlours, etc.)

Personal services businesses were ordered to shut down on April 16, when the COVID-19 pandemic started ramping up in B.C.

However on May 14, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a notice that cancels that shut down order as of May 19 meaning businesses like hair salons, nail technicians, tattoo parlours, etc. can reopen tomorrow if they follow WorkSafeBC guidelines.

Once they do reopen, patrons can expect the workstations of hair stylists, nail techs, etc. to be spaced six feet apart.

Clients will be asked book all appointments virtually, show up alone if possible, and wait outside the premises until their scheduled appointment time.

All patrons will be asked to cancel their bookings if they or someone in their household exhibits symptoms of COVID-19, and will be reminded of this policy upon arrival.

In this new normal, there will be no product testers, magazine racks, booklets, brochures or toys, and businesses that offer refreshments like coffee and tea are advised to discontinue that practice.

See also: Gyms and fitness studios on Vancouver Island will be allowed to reopen May 19

For personal services that require close contact, businesses must let patrons know if they need to wear a non-medical mask, and provide masks for those who have not brought their own.

Workers will be allowed to wear gowns, smocks, or aprons over their street clothes while performing their jobs.

Tools like irons, nail clippers, gowns, etc. should be shared as little as possible, and employers are advised to provide each employee with their own set of tools wherever possible. All such tools must be disinfected between each client.

The guidance for how to handle payment is the same as that for retail stores and eateries, where all patrons are asked to use the tap feature of their bank cards as much as possible, but cash is not disallowed.

Personal service businesses will also be required to allow additional time between each client to enforce a rigorous cleaning protocol as part of their regular practice.

More information and resources on how retailers can build their reopening plan can be found here.

For all businesses that require staff to converge at a physical location, concerns about COVID-19 exposure at work can be addressed to WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Information Line at 604-276-3100 in the Lower Mainland and toll-free within B.C. at 1-888-621-7233.

If required, a prevention officer will be assigned to assess the health and safety risk at the workplace of the complainant.