Businesses wary of mounting COVID-19 cases in Fraser Health Region

·3 min read

As B.C. battles its second wave of COVID-19, a spotlight is on the Fraser Health region, where new cases are climbing at a higher rate than anywhere else in the province.

Of the more than 800 new cases reported over the weekend, 81 per cent are from that area which runs from Burnaby and Delta in Metro Vancouver eastward to Hope. Now the province is cracking down on social gatherings in private homes, advocating masking up in public buildings and homing in on contact tracing in an effort to stop the spread.

Local businesses hope residents take their role in slowing the spread seriously, because another lockdown could spell disaster.

"Small businesses really can't afford to shut down again, to be honest," said Josh Vanderheide owner of Field House Brewing Co. in Abbotsford.

He says his brewery made it through the "roller coaster" of the spring when restaurants and bars were forced to close as the case count climbed.

Vanderheide said he has since rehired all the staff he laid off and implemented the necessary safety precautions, but the recent numbers have him on edge.

"Every day I'm checking first thing in the morning ... is there something new we need to be aware of, is there something we can do better to make sure that we're going to be OK?" he said.

Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, chief medical health officer for Fraser Health, says the region seems to be a hot spot for COVID-19 because it has the highest density of multi-generational families living in close proximity to each other, making it easier for the virus to circulate.

Brodkin says many of the infections can be linked to clusters in households or at social gatherings such as weddings, which can in turn fuel the spread of the illness in workplaces, schools and health-care facilities.

Narinder Singh, president of Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib in Surrey, says every part of the temple has been overhauled to try and stop the spread of COVID-19.

There are no more large communal meals, there are now limits on how many people can pray at once, live-streamed services, hand sanitizer and one-way entrances and exits.

Before the pandemic, he would see a thousand people at the temple on a Sunday. Now it's just a few hundred spaced out throughout the day.

Singh says he sees it as his duty to ensure people can pray safely.

"If we are safe, people are safe," he said.

Shelina Mawani, owner of Nana's Kitchen and Foods in Surrey, hopes the community can get a better handle on COVID-19.

Sixty staff in her industrial kitchen make 25,000 samosas by hand every day bound for grocery stores across North America.

Production was cut back drastically in the spring, she said, but things are more or less back to normal. Even before the pandemic, staff had to wear gloves, masks and uniforms, so her business didn't have to make many changes to its operations, aside from added physical distancing.

She thinks that's made a big difference — and believes masks should be mandatory.

"I feel that we have to be more careful being out there, masks on and more social distancing, and taking a lot of precautions," she said.

She worries things will only get worse unless everyone is on the same page when it comes to taking precautions.

Otherwise, there could be more lockdowns on businesses, something she's not confident her company could survive a second time.

"We are worried because this could happen again," she said.

"And at that time, what are we going to do?"

Chris Corday/CBC
Chris Corday/CBC