Whistler’s service sectors got a more detailed picture of B.C.’s vaccine card program before it is officially rolled out on Sept. 13.
A number of businesses and venues deemed non-essential will be required to verify patrons’ COVID-19 vaccination status before they are granted entry, including restaurants (indoor and outdoor dining); pubs; organized indoor events such as weddings and business conferences; concerts, clubs, cinemas and casinos; fitness centres, adult sports and indoor group exercise activities; and indoor ticketed sporting events.
British Columbians can apply for their vaccine card at gov.bc.ca/vaccinecard, where they will enter their personal health number, date of birth and date of either their first or second vaccine dose. A digital version can be saved to a mobile device or printed off as a paper copy. Those without computer or internet access can call 1-833-838-2323 to get a hard copy mailed to them.
From Sept. 13 to 26, the wallet-sized paper cards issued after receiving vaccine doses can still be used if people wish to enter businesses or events without the digital card or printout copy of the QR code.
Businesses will verify vaccination status by downloading the not-yet-available BC Card Vaccine Verifier app and scanning a QR code displayed on users’ digital cards or paper copies, or visually verifying the status by looking at the card and checking the user’s name and immunization details and confirming their government-issued photo ID matches the name on the card.
The app will only confirm a user’s vaccination status: fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated or no records found. No additional health info will be contained in the app or stored in the worker’s mobile device.
At a press briefing Tuesday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated that only restaurants with a liquor licence and/or offering table service will have to check for vaccination status, meaning fast-food restaurants, food courts, cafeterias and drive-thrus are exempt.
After the news of the vaccine card was announced last month, Whistler business and restaurant leaders expressed concern over the enforcement burden falling on already stressed frontline workforce.
“All the calls we’ve taken in the last couple days, everyone’s like, ‘How are we going to make this work without ruffling feathers, without creating conflict, without putting extra pressure on staff?’ It’s not their job description,” Restaurant Association of Whistler president Eric Griffith told Pique in a late August interview. (He was unavailable to comment for this story.)
That was echoed by a BC Restaurant and Food Services Association-led task force in a letter last week to provincial officials calling for a number of measures to be implemented to assist the sector in the rollout of the program, including a simple, streamlined verification process; promotional and educational support that includes signage and a business hotline support number; online training materials for staff that features video tutorials “on how to deal with challenging customers”; and swift, actionable fines and enforcement of both individuals and operators not in compliance.
“Our staff and our task force are ready to move forward to create welcoming dining experiences that incorporate [public health order] best practices as long as this pandemic lasts so that we can return to profitability as soon as possible,” the letter read.
Depending on the violation, individuals could be subject to a $230 or $575 fine for not complying with COVID health orders, while owners, operators and event organizers could be subject a $2,300 violation ticket.
What the new program means for Whistler’s largest employer, Whistler Blackcomb, remains to be seen. In an emailed statement, the company said it is “working to understand the new vaccine passport requirements based on the details of the rollout by the province today, Tuesday, Sept. 7, in advance of next week’s implementation.”
-With files from Tyler Orton, Business in Vancouver, and Lindsay William-Ross, Vancouver Is Awesome.