Only a single change was made on Thursday to the new public health orders first proposed by chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin on Tuesday, clarifying that the allowance for two people to visit another person must always be the same two people.
The lack of any further changes to the proposed rules for businesses came as a disappointment to the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, which was hoping that more businesses like restaurants and certain types of personal services might be added to the list on top of the essential items list being eliminated and all retail businesses being allowed to reopen.
"I think it’s kind of a double-edged sword," said chamber president Spencer Day. "Obviously, we’re disappointed as a business community to not see more industries, more sectors, more businesses be able to open in a limited capacity, but if you listened to the message from the province today, we’re really hoping to not go backward from here.
"We’re hoping that this is just one clean path forward — a gradual, steady reopening. Although, it’s not a popular path if you ask most of us in the business community, including myself."
"The best thing we can do right now is the same thing we’ve continued to say as a chamber: follow the public health orders, stay home, order from your favourite restaurant and subscribe to your favourite online classes," Day said. "Help keep the sectors moving along that don’t have the opportunity to open here come Saturday."
He added that the chamber’s goal is still to reopen the economy as quickly and safely as possible. When the new health orders expire in three weeks, Day would like to see every business get the chance to reopen in a limited capacity.
During Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing, Premier Brian Pallister gave a non-commital answer when asked if another round of Manitoba Bridge Grant funding would be coming for businesses that still cannot reopen. In response, Day said the chamber’s position has been that if businesses remain closed, they need to be compensated.
Mayor Rick Chrest called the loosening of restrictions "a welcome first step" during a Thursday afternoon phone call with the Sun.
"I’m also very mindful that this reopening has not yet been granted to every sector," he said. "And so I’m certainly sad for sectors that are not included in this such as restaurants, gyms and other personal services."
The mayor said he believed locals have taken the rules very seriously and has been glad to see that COVID-19 case numbers have been low since the flareup in August and September.
According to Chrest, municipal officials will be meeting today to see how the city might change its operations to fit the new rules and potentially reopen some facilities that have been closed to the public. However, he warned that recreation facilities would be remaining closed.
Hair salons being allowed to reopen was welcome news for Hair Today Mall Barbers owner Jim Murray.
"We are very excited to be able to reopen on Saturday," he said. "We can open Saturday at 10 a.m. when the mall opens, and we’re already booked solid for the entire day."
That’s taking into account the restriction in place ordering businesses to only open with 25 per cent of their regular capacity or 250 people people in total, whichever is smaller.
While the business has been closed, Murray said he’s had a lot of regular customers asking him when he’d be able to reopen.
"It’s nice to be wanted," he said.
He said having to be closed for several months has been difficult, especially while having to still pay his monthly rent of $10,000. The capacity limit isn’t ideal and won’t allow for the barbershop to pay all its bills, but Murray believes it’s better than nothing.
"When you have no income coming in, that really hurts," he said.
When the health orders get revised in three weeks, Murray is hoping that the business will be able to once again offer its ear piercing and waxing services.
At Lady of the Lake, the business’ gift shop has been doing online sales with curbside pickup, but manager Miranda Stobbe is glad to once again welcome customers inside. She said the sales over the last Christmas season were not nearly what they typically have been in previous years.
The restaurant at Lady at the Lake has been making some sales through takeout orders, but the cash flow on that side of the business won’t be improved until customers are once again allowed to dine in.
One employee has been brought back from being laid off, but the business is unable to bring back anyone else yet.
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