Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson. Photo: Tyler Harper

Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson. Photo: Tyler Harper

NEWS AND VIEWS: The vaccine card and Nelson’s businesses

Tom Thomson writes about the local rollout and impact of the card

by Tom Thomson

Even with the B.C. Vaccine Card beginning to slow the pandemic’s pace, and the summer’s economic restart plans underway, businesses may still need a hand preparing for the months ahead or recovering from those we’ve already made it through. We can help.

The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce understands that with new vaccine card and mask protocols in effect until at least January 2022, full economic recovery is going to take some more work.

The Chamber, its board and our economic development partners commend the business community for its resilience through these challenging times.

Working hard for you since the start of the pandemic, the Chamber can answer questions and offer help on issues including the vaccine card and mask protocol for all businesses, COVID trends, labour shortages, wage challenges, decreased profitability, debt load and rent-mortgage assistance.

We can also help you work within the amount of time left for programs that your business has been relying on.

Chamber of Commerce business recovery advisor Darren Davidson, with support from Jenna Arnett and the Chamber team, has been on the street speaking to business for the past few months. Darren has up to date resource material to drop off or you can visit the Chamber’s website for updates at www.discovernelson.com/recovery.

Vaccine passport appears to be working well, according to businesses and consumers

From the outset, the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce has been in favour of the concept of the vaccine passport system, but we had concerns with the roll out and the added pressures and expenses that the verification program would put on small locally owned restaurants, pubs, craft breweries, personal fitness, and gyms — the small business that has been following the provincial health orders for the past 18 months.

The Chamber is committed to advocate on your behalf for continued wage and rent support, and the lifting of some COVID business restrictions now that the province’s vaccine verification program is in place. The Chamber network along with the restaurant association and other business groups note that the program is going relatively well but concerns and advocacy remain on finding funding for restaurants who’ve hired extra staff solely to verify vaccination status. The premier has said he’s interested in looking at how to perhaps defray those costs, and it’s something we’ll be talking to him about.

Personally, I have found the downloading of the card and the quick front door vaccine verification at the front door quite seamless, and local establishments are following the rules of enforcement. We’re seeing most people appreciate the verification because they feel safe in the establishment, they don’t mind doing it and the venue is getting into a bit of a flow now.

Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, mentioned recently that they believe about one per cent of the licensed, table-service restaurants required to check vaccine passports are openly defying the rules. The province confirmed enforcement is underway, though declined to provide specifics about individual businesses, or share how many tickets have been issued.

Remember folks, this is just one more challenge and hurdle the local businesses must comply with. These programs are provincial health orders, so be kind to your local business owners and their servers. They are just doing what is required.

The Chamber has been working communications with government officials stressing that current restrictions on businesses should be relaxed when the Oct. 24 date arrives, and all patrons have been double vaxxed to get in. Seating capacities should be increased in those venues complying with vaccine card requirements. Our message is that if business continues to follow all PHO, then the time should come to relax indoor restrictions to assist the business recovery.

If you haven’t got your downloaded card on your phone, now is the time to act. People can get their B.C. Vaccine Card online and keep a digital copy on their mobile device by taking a screen shot or saving the digital copy to the device’s photo album or downloads folder. Alternatively, people can print a hard copy to present when entering designated businesses and events.

Remember, we are all in this together!

Think Local First! Stay Safe! Shop, Dine and enjoy Nelson and area businesses.

Tom Thomson is executive director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.