While several businesses in West Prince are in support of the new PEI Vax Pass, there are concerns about how interactions between staff and customers will go.
“When we went from masks, to no masks, back to masks, there was this period of time where people were forgetting their mask, or were getting kind of upset at the door, and that’s a simple fix,” said Erica Wagner, owner and operator of Backwoods Burger in Tyne Valley. “We have the masks, we can give customers masks. We can’t give them their Vax Pass.”
The new Vax Pass came into effect on Oct. 5, and for the time being, Islanders will have a paper version of the pass. Along with the pass, they will also need to present a photo ID. Later this month, a mobile app will be available.
Proof of vaccination is require at both indoor and outdoor events, including wedding and funeral receptions and wakes, group activities and classes, food premises and licensed premises, casinos and movie theatres, indoor gyms, swimming pools, and skating rinks.
Ms Wagner said the biggest concern is potential confrontation between staff and customers, something Bonnie Gaudet, owner of Our Family Traditions in Tignish, is also concerned about.
“I know it’s going to be very difficult for us, especially when times are busy, to ask for the IDs, but I know it will help,” she said. “I just hope people are kind to my staff, and I hope they’re prepared, and I hope they’re kind to us.”
Kevin Porter, executive director of Community Inclusions, is concerned for the impact the Vax Pass will have on smaller businesses, like Maple House Bakery & Café in O’Leary, which is owned and operated by Community Inclusions.
“The bakery and café, we don’t have somebody to put out front and screen people, we just don’t have the manpower,” he said. “A lot of other industries, including the food industry is struggling with getting people to work now, and it’s something else you have to ask existing staff to do now, it makes it a little difficult, so that worried me some.”
Mr Porter said the bakery and café will have a more non-confrontational approach if a client comes in and doesn’t have their pass. Instead of having a potential confrontation, staff will get as much information about the situation as possible, and report it to safety inspectors with the Department of Health and Wellness.
At Iron Have Gym in Alberton, the process for clients showing their proof of vaccination is a little easier to manage.
“Because we have a computerized system for the gym, we just have to see everyone’s pass once and enter the information in the system, and they’re good to go.” explained Terry Adams, owner and operator of Iron Haven Gym. “The vast majority of our members want to stay safe themselves and see everyone else stay safe. A lot of them have told me they feel more comfortable knowing they’re coming to an environment where they know everybody is vaccinated.”
Mr Porter said when masking mandates were first implemented last year, things went fairly well, and he hopes things will go a similar way with the new Vax Pass.
“We’re all in it together at the end of the day,” he said. “I think everybody wants their community to be safe communities.”
Ms Wagner hopes to avoid confrontation as well. She said a sign will be placed at the front of the business letting clients know there won’t be any debate on the pass, and staff will not be taking any guff on the matter.
“We’re not enforcement officers, we’re not trained in de-escalation, this isn’t our area of expertise,” she said. “We have a zero tolerance policy for any sort of aggression or anything like that. It’s going to say so on the door, so people know to have their Vax Pass ready, and we’re just trying to do our job. Don’t be rude.”