Martin Laniel said he was willing to take people at their word, but not anymore.
The business owner in Haines Junction, Yukon, said he now wants to see proof of COVID-19 vaccination before admitting people as guests in his backpackers hostel.
No proof? No bed.
"As a business, you are legally entitled to make your own business decisions. And I know that for me, that business decision right now is that everybody who comes into my building will show me proof of vaccination," he said.
On Tuesday, Laniel's Wanderer's Inn hostel was identified by Yukon health officials as a potential COVID-19 exposure location the week before. Laniel blames a guest who he says lied to him about having been vaccinated.
"Since we re-opened, you know, we asked people if they've been vaccinated, and people are usually forward. Sometimes they're like, 'you need to see proof?'" Laniel said.
"Sometimes they show it, sometimes they don't. But I wasn't, you know, asking for it. And that's maybe my mistake."
Laniel said he was contacted by health officials who he surmised were doing contact tracing. Later, he learned through the media of the exposure notice for his business.
Health officials said Tuesday that anybody who was at the hostel from Aug. 21 to 27 should monitor for symptoms. An exposure notice was also issued for a hostel in Whitehorse, but that one was rescinded on Friday.
Laniel said he figured out the guest's identity from the dates given for his hostel. He wouldn't say how he learned the person had lied to him about being vaccinated.
Another setback for business
It's been a serious frustration for Laniel. He and his staff and family all had to get rapid-tested. Everybody has tested negative, Laniel said.
But it's hurt his business, he said, at a time when he felt it was just getting off the ground again. The pandemic saw him shut down for about a year, and it was slow to pick up when he reopened last spring.
Some guests cancelled soon after the exposure notice went out.
His bigger concern, though, is for the safety of his small community.
"You have no idea how much I regret that this happened at my place of business," he said.
"I hate that my business could be the business that could potentially cause an outbreak in my community, you know?"
As of Thursday, there was no indication from territorial health officials that the two hostels had triggered any sort of outbreak. Yukon's daily active case count has been hovering in the 20s in recent days, and most of those cases have been in Whitehorse.
Laniel said he's now willing to be more strict about only allowing vaccinated people into his business — and asking for physical proof. He said many guests, particularly Americans, already volunteer proof.
He's also now asking his staff to always wear masks around guests.
"The unfortunate thing is that, you know, we are a hostel — we're not a hotel. So there's a lot of shared space, which is why, you know, this is very, very upsetting to us because, you know, we can expose a lot of people."