Manitoba businesses introduce, or reintroduce, safety measures after surge of COVID-19 cases

By | July 30, 2020

People looking to work out at Craig Larkins’s Winnipeg cycle studio will find they can’t use the change rooms, there are fewer spots available, and they won’t get towels at the end of their class — all part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Those rules are in line with provincial directives, but his latest policy is going a step further.

Anyone who has travelled outside Manitoba can’t work out at Riot Cycle for two weeks after they return, Larkins says — even those who travelled from western provinces, which are not subject to the province’s 14-day self-isolation policy.

“Everybody has a responsibility in protecting each other and we all have to look out for each other, especially now in the midst of this pandemic,” the Riot Cycle co-founder said.

When the business was closed earlier in the pandemic, “everybody missed it so much — missed moving and being physical — so we’re just trying to be really diligent in what we can do to protect Winnipeggers and Manitobans in general.”

Riot Cycle is one of a number of Manitoba businesses that are ramping up their health and safety policies in light of the surge of cases of COVID-19 in the last few weeks, after a nearly two-week-long period with no new cases reported in the province.

Since July 14, 82 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Manitoba, bringing the total to 407 as of Wednesday.

Beth Syrnyk is the manager of Marshall Fabrics, which implemented a mandatory mask policy for customers last week in light of growing numbers of active cases. (Rachel Bergen/CBC)

Across town from Riot Cycle, Marshall Fabrics is one of a number of fabric businesses in the city that have implemented a mandatory mask rule for everyone inside.

Because most of her customers are able to sew, store manager Beth Syrnyk said it’s not a big ask.

“People can get really close to one another, and if everybody wants to see the flannel at the same time, they can get very close,” she said, so the masks are intended to provide another way to curb the spread of the virus.

Store employees have been wearing masks since Marshall Fabrics reopened its doors to the public, but the rule now includes customers as well.

“Because we were starting to get more cases, we didn’t want to wait until it was mandated by the province to do it,” Syrnyk said.

Syrnyk makes her own masks. She hopes more people start wearing them in public, especially indoors when physically distancing is difficult. (Rachel Bergen/CBC)

Planet Fitness, a national gym chain with three locations in Winnipeg, is also establishing a mandatory mask rule for all its locations starting on Saturday, according to a press release issued by the company on Monday.

So far, businesses like Planet Fitness and Marshall Fabrics are taking safety measures beyond what the province is demanding.

However, mandatory mask rules and reversals of previous easing of restrictions aren’t off the table, provincial officials have said.

Last week, in response to ongoing concerns from the public, Health Minister Cameron Friesen said the province scaled back its Phase 4 reopening plan by maintaining a cap of public gathering sizes and keeping the requirement for travellers from east of northwestern Ontario to self-isolate when they enter the province.

Back to early pandemic days

Even so, some Manitoba businesses are reverting back to safety measures they had in place near the beginning of the pandemic.

The Pet Valu store in Dauphin announced on Monday it’s closing the doors that lead from the store to the adjacent mall in order to reduce the number of people passing through.

Jason Nelson is the manager of Pet Valu in Dauphin. He says some of his employees were concerned about the spike in cases, which is why they closed one of the store’s entrances. (Submitted by Jason Nelson)

“With the concerns of the increases, I just want to be proactive,” said store manager Jason Nelson.

Meanwhile, The 10 Acre Woods, an animal rescue and petting farm in Anola, announced in a Facebook post it’s closing early for the season in light of COVID-19.

Owner Tara McKean told CBC News “it felt like the right decision,” and something the farm could do to help keep people safe.

“We thought it was best to not even deal with the chaos, and everybody can stay safe.”

Many of these businesses say they aren’t opposed to going even further to protect staff and patrons, even if the government doesn’t mandate it.

“I hope other businesses follow suit,” McKean said.

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