(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

Armstrong responds to complaints of businesses violating COVID orders

City staff have assumed an educative role in the province’s COVID enforcement efforts

Armstrong bylaw officers have been kept busy ensuring that businesses are adhering to fast-changing COVID-19 protocols.

In a memo to council dated Jan. 5, Armstrong Community Services Manager Warren Smith highlighted complaints that have been received by the city related to COVID-19, as well as referrals from the Provincial COVID Enforcement Team.

The memo states that in December 2020, the city worked with the Provincial Enforcement Team and WorkSafeBC regarding two businesses that were operating in violation of COVID-19 orders and WorkSafeBC regulations. Specifically, the complaints related to mask-wearing policies, or lack thereof.

In an interview Thursday (Jan. 14), Smith said it’s not unusual for businesses everywhere to be struggling to keep up with the fast-changing protocols. The province-wide restrictions have also grown increasingly nuanced. Subtle changes in guidance for various sectors — especially sports and recreation — have had a hamster-wheel effect on many businesses trying to stay up to date.

Both businesses who were the subject of a COVID-19 complaint have been spoken to by Armstrong bylaw officers and have agreed to comply with the latest public health orders, Smith said.

READ MORE: Armstrong waitress shares story of anti-masker’s tirade

“They are both now up to speed on what they are required to do, and both are more familiarized with the recommendation and the requirements of wearing masks within public environments and what they need to adhere to as a business,” he said.

One of the businesses was in the process of updating its policies, said Smith, while another was taking direction from its association which happened to be providing out-of-date guidance.

He advised the business to “rely on (the association’s) information to a certain extent, but you also should be making sure you’re going directly to the right sources and dealing with the province of B.C. and the order itself.”

Smith says the city’s role in COVID enforcement is mostly educative; there’s no need to punish a business with fines when a simple reminder will do.

Local governments have been asked by the province to support their COVID-19 enforcement policies and support Interior Health by providing the public with education, Smith said. Cities are tasked with bringing guidance from above to their communities on the ground, making sure COVID-19 restrictions on businesses are followed. Cities have also been asked to transfer their provincial gaming enforcement officers to the new COVID Health Orders division.

“We’re here directly in the community where WorkSafeBC may not always be here at the time, and as well as to make sure that we’re using our resources such as the RCMP or the provincial enforcement unit, where it is actually needed,” Smith said.

It’s been a trying task for Armstrong staff with public health orders changing, but one that Smith says has been worth the effort.

“We’re lucky that we’re a small community,” Smith said, “so we haven’t had the complaints basis that some other communities have had that we’re hearing about within our province or other areas of Canada.”

He added that if businesses aren’t sure what to do, they can always call WorkSafeBC or Interior Health.

“We try and provide as much information as we can, we don’t know all of it, we’ll openly admit that, but we will either try and get that person that information or get them pointed in the right direction where they can get it from,” he said.

For the latest province-wide restrictions and recommendations in B.C., visit the B.C. government’s website.

READ MORE: Affordable apartments on Armstrong’s agenda

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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