Posts Tagged "covid 19"


B.C. rejects calls for individualized air quality supports for people with disabilities and those at risk from wildfire smoke

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Though there is widespread consensus that wildfire smoke has become an annual health issue for thousands of high-risk British Columbians, the provincial government is rejecting calls for individualized air quality measures and defending its one-size-fits-all approach.

CTV News Vancouver has spoken with several people with disabilities and the BC Lung Association, who all agree that the long-term issue of poor air quality during annual wildfire smoke should prompt the province to consider air purifiers an essential health device for those with relevant health conditions.

“I would not be surprised to see more people with underlying conditions going to emergency rooms,” said Dr. Menn Biagtan of the BC Lung Association, noting that the thousands of British Columbians who’ve had COVID-19 are now included in that category.

“I think one of the lessons we’re going to learn from this wildfire season is that air purifiers (should be) available for those who really need it or cannot afford it. I would be in agreement with that, and that should be included in the plan.” 

Disability researcher and policy analyst Gabrielle Peters raised the issue with the province last year, penning a letter to several ministries and urging them to consider an extension to the BC Medical program.

“Disabled people are disproportionately likely to live below the poverty line and already facing extraordinary costs because of COVID-19,” she wrote last fall. “It is simply not possible to purchase air purifiers at this income level.” 

The Ministry of Health rejected the idea of providing air purifiers to individuals in its response to Peters, saying it was too complex and expensive to do so and that the government was focussed on community centres and shopping malls as centres where anyone could find relief during periods of poor air quality. The ministry reiterated this position when CTV News asked about the issue on Wednesday.

“Due to these unique individual considerations when purchasing a portable air purifier, the provincial government does not provide portable air purifiers to the public,” wrote ministry staffer, who said no interviews were possible on the issue.

“BC Housing has an Extreme Heat and Wildfire Smoke Response Protocol for social housing buildings managed by BC Housing, including the creation of cooling rooms, regular checks on tenants and providing tenants with information about how to stay cool and protect themselves from smoke.”


While the smoke from wildfires may be an unpleasant annoyance for many people, for others, the weeks of fine particulate matter in the air can have serious health consequences. 

“I get migraines and respiratory distress that triggers heart problems for me,” said Q, a disabled person in Chilliwack with a connective tissue disorder and COPD, among other complex health issues, which are aggravated by wildfire smoke.

“I am likely to faint if I do go outside; I have been hospitalized with wildfire smoke exposure.” 

For those living in the Okanagan, the impacts have been even more intense and long-running.

“I know so many disabled people who, like me, are reluctant to seek medical care unless it’s a crisis since we spend so much time and energy navigating the system,” wrote Kelowna resident Shaunna Muckersie, who has permanent lung damage after mistaking a serious cough in 2018 as wildfire-smoke-related, when she actually had a lung abscess and double pneumonia.

“I am very lucky in my living situation in that I have been able to acquire an air purifier to run in my bedroom,” added Muckersie. “I genuinely don’t know what I would do otherwise. The mall and library are not safe for me now because of COVID, and as my disability has gradually worsened, I have had difficulty driving at times.”


The BC Lung Association includes wildfire smoke prominently in its “State of the Air” report, urging British Columbians to start preparing for issues before the smoke sets in.

“Exposure to wildfire smoke is associated with a range of acute effects, particularly for those with respiratory diseases,” note the report’s authors. “Evidence of longer-term health effects is also starting to emerge.”

Biagtan reiterated the advice to stock up on medications, have a “clean air room” in each home and make sure that anyone investing in an air purifier gets the right size for the space they want to use it in. She also advocated using the DIY option the B.C. Centre for Disease Control is recommending for those in a budget. It costs just $60 in materials. 

“lf you’re planning to go out, look up the Air Quality Health Index,” she added. “If it’s high, stay indoors and seek clean air shelters. If your symptoms are worsening, consult your doctor or go to the emergency room.”


Peters would like to see wheelchair-accessible hotel rooms reserved for Interior Health residents to be able to escape the intense smoke near their homes, pointing out that unless the flames from a wildfire threaten someone’s home, they can be living in a fire zone for weeks with horrendous air quality and little escape if they don’t have the money or social connections to stay elsewhere.

She added that without access to air purifiers, high-risk people with compromised immune systems, cardiac conditions, various lung issues and physical disabilities can take up critical acute care resources.

“Research has shown emergency room visits and hospitalizations go up when there is wildfire smoke in the air,” wrote Peters. “We also know that (fine particulate matter) can cause both immediate acute symptoms and long term health effects.”

And while the argument that supplying air purifiers is more economical than a hospital stay doesn’t appear to be part of the government’s calculus, Q doesn’t think the government is taking into account the people who feel invisible in their health struggles, which are amplified each summer.

“The government has to rethink messaging and how we’re involved with these decisions,” Q said. “We really do get left on the sidelines. The greatest effects (from wildfire smoke) are against the people who are not cared for and not remembered by most of society.” 


Afghan Kitchen restaurant in Surrey targeted with vandalism

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The owners of a popular restaurant in Surrey are reeling after they were targeted with yet another act of vandalism.

Early Saturday morning a man approached the restaurant patio of the Afghan Kitchen, and began smashing the establishment’s outdoor heaters – first by tipping them over and then repeatedly picking them up and dropping them.

“For those visiting us today and this coming week, please do excuse the mess and lack of heating on our patio,” reads a statement from the restaurant on social media.

“Otherwise, we’re lost for words.”

The vandal’s actions were caught on a security camera. He was wearing all black, with a baseball cap and white headphones around his neck. According to the restaurant he came around 6 a.m.

The Afghan Kitchen, located in South Surrey, is owned in part by the Sarwari family, who immigrated from Afghanistan to Canada, and features their family’s recipes.

At one point, in the video, he begins to leave, but then turns back to further destroy the patio heaters by bending them with his hands.

This is not the first time that the restaurant has been subject to seemingly random acts of vandalism. In the spring and summer of 2020, thieves targeted the patio and stole plants multiple times.


17 ‘stranger attacks’ in just 2 weeks in Vancouver, police say, releasing video of an incident

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Officers are investigating an incident they say is just one of more than a dozen random assaults reported in Vancouver in the last few weeks.

Police said the incident was reported in the early morning hours of July 11, though the public was not notified until this week.

In a news release, the Vancouver Police Department said a man was walking home along Granville Street at about 3:30 a.m. that day when he was approached by a group of men.

Part of the incident was captured by a nearby security camera, according to the VPD, who released some of that video Thursday.

Police said the video shows a man pushed the victim down. Another helped the victim up, and the victim can be seen walking with the group toward a lane near Granville and Smithe Street.

The VPD said the victim was assaulted while in the lane, and his wallet was stolen.

And it does not appear to be an isolated incident.

According to VPD Const. Tania Visintin, “Stranger attacks have been prevalent in recent weeks throughout Vancouver and this is very concerning.”

The constable said there have been 17 “random assaults” reported across the city in the last two weeks alone.

Three suspects are all described as South Asian and in their early 20s.

The first is about 5’10” with short hair and “large ears,” the VPD said. At the time of the assault, he was wearing a white T-shirt, white pants and a green jacket, and carrying a black satchel across his chest.

Police described the second man as about 5’11” with a medium build and short dark hair. He was wearing a grey hooded sweater and black pants.

The third, according to police, is about 5’9″ with curly dark brown hair, and had on a white sweater and grey sweatpants the morning of July 11.

Police are seeking witnesses, as well as anyone who may recognize the men in the video.

“This happened around the time the bars closed on Granville Street. We know there were people still out and they may have seen what happened and can identify these men,” Visintin said.

“There is no excuse for anyone to get attacked for absolutely no reason.”


‘Long COVID’ clinics expanding as thousands of British Columbians struggle with symptoms

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The number of new COVID-19 infections has dropped from its peak during the third wave, but the medical system is only now ramping up supports and medical treatment for thousands of British Columbians who continue to experience symptoms months after getting sick with the coronavirus.

Four post-COVID recovery clinics are now accepting patients in the Lower Mainland, offering teams of experts including lung specialists, psychologists, rheumatologists and physical therapists to better care for people experiencing the long-lasting effects of an illness that’s still being analyzed and unravelled. 

One of the leading doctors involved in treating “long COVID” patients says that while the multi-disciplinary approach may sound expensive, he believes it’ll actually be more cost-effective for the health-care system in the long-term.

“That’s the intention, to save a lot of money because instead of having an individual jump around from one specialist to the next in an uncoordinated way, we’re intending to do it and we’ve put these systms in place so that that care is better coordinated,” said Dr. Chris Carlsten, UBC’s head of respiratory medicine and Post-Covid Recovery Clinic lung specialist.

“People want to feel good, they want to work, they want to be productive, they want to be active … so it’s just a matter of trying to help them do that.” 

When the long-hauler clinics were first established last year, they were only taking COVID patients with the most debilitating post-infection symptoms. Since then, they have expanded and continue to grow with more funding; they are now accepting patients with a range of symptoms and severities.

The growing treatment options come as local researchers say it’s time we start changing how we think of the illness and the auto-antibody response that might be leading to the long-term symptoms.

“Initially, we thought of COVID-19 as a respiratory illness, but what we’ve learned is that this is a multi-system disease, affecting multiple organs — from the brain, heart, kidneys and liver to the gastrointestinal tract,” said Dr. Anita Palepu, UBC professor and head of the department of medicine, in a research update


A precise definition and estimate of how many British Columbians could be struggling with lasting symptoms from the disease is hard to pinpoint. The symptoms are a topic of considerable debate in the medical community, and even the rough estimate that a third of people who’ve had COVID will have symptoms lasting three months after their initial infections is imprecise at best. 

Symptoms can include typical hallmarks of COVID-19 (coughing, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing), brain fog, fatigue and difficulty concentrating; loss of taste and smell may be lingering effects, but aren’t the focus of the recovery clinics.

A referral from a physician is required for care

Even with a conservative estimate, some 40,000 British Columbians are likely still experiencing symptoms from their infection months later, with varying impacts on their quality of life. Carlsten points out that the one-third ballpark estimate is for those who’ve had symptoms. 

“There’s so many people that are infected that are not symptomatic at all, some of whom don’t even know they were infected,” he said.

Some people who weren’t seriously sick have had their symptoms stick around for a year or more, he added, while others who’ve been hospitalized have made full recoveries, so there’s no clear pattern about who will be grappling with the symptoms long-term.


While some who technically have long COVID may see their lingering symptoms as little more than an annoyance, for others, the consequences have been debilitating.

Vancouver resident Katy McLean had been very physically and socially active before catching the virus last September, but the 43 year-old now needs a walker and had to stop working and go on disability support.

“I had what seemed like fatigue and a head cold at the beginning, then lost my sense of smell on day nine,” she told CTV News, explaining that while her initial illness improved after a month, she relapsed in the spring and spent three months unable to get out of bed.

“I compare it to a bad hangover when you’re just dizzy, you’re sick, you’re so tired, you can’t do anything – you can’t think straight,” she said. “You feel foggy and cognitively impaired.”

Describing her illness as like a rollercoaster, McLean says her worst days come with shortness of breath and heart palpitations. She’s also developed chronic fatigue syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), which has turned her feet a purplish colour and prevents her from standing for more than a few minutes, even if she had the energy to stand longer.

“It’s isolating,” said McLean, crediting her live-in partner for supporting her through her illness.

“I could’ve never imagined 10.5 months later I’d still be in this situation with my mobility impaired and on disability, unable to work, unable to socialize.”

The Provincial Health Services Authority now has resources for patients and doctors alike to research what medical professionals have been able to learn about the long-term effects of COVID-19. 


The impacts of isolation and de facto lockdowns have affected everyone, whether they’ve stifled personal relationships and connections or left people feeling depressed and stressed out. But, Carlsten says mood disorders shouldn’t be confused with the low energy and brain fog so many long-haulers are experiencing.

“It’s not just depression and mood. A lot of the manifestations of COVID couldn’t be explained by that at all,” said the lung specialist, pointing to a CT scan of COVID-ravaged lungs, predominantly white from damage and scarring.

“You can imagine how if your lungs are so affected by that, it’s so easily visible, what that can do to your oxygen levels and when you have oxygen levels that are compromised, it’s not a stretch to think you can’t think clearly,” Carlsten said.

While the PHSA’s website indicates the clinics will only treat people with a confirmed COVID diagnosis or positive serology test, the practitioners are more lenient, acknowledging many people may have self-isolated with symptoms without getting tested, particularly when testing was in short supply.

“Admittedly, that has been a difficult question for us, because you can imagine the mountain it opens,” said Carlsten. “We’ve been working with the government to get the resources for that, and more recently they’ve been forthcoming. So, as those resources come, we’ll expand the eligibility and we certainly don’t believe a positive test is the only way to establish that you’ve had COVID.”

McLean is grateful there are more supports and hopes there will be more awareness about a condition that’s misunderstood and often unrecognized by people who haven’t experienced it themselves.

“There’s not a lot of attention on this because a lot of us are off into the shadows,” she said. “We’re not in the world anymore, we’re not participating in socializing or the workforce or anything, we’re just at home trying to get better.” 


B.C. to raise minimum employment age from 12 to 16 this fall

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British Columbia is making changes to its employment standards legislation this fall, raising the general working age for young people from 12 to 16 years old.

The changes will also outline the kinds of “light work” jobs that people under 16 can do with permission from a parent or guardian.

The new rules will take effect on Oct. 15 and bring the province in line with international youth employment standards, the province said in a statement Wednesday. The delay in implementing the changes is intended to allow employers and young workers to adjust to the new requirements.

“Work experience can be a rewarding growth opportunity for young people, but it should never compromise their safety,” B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains said in the statement. “We know that most employers make safety their top priority for all their workers, and these changes clarify what types of employment are age-appropriate for young workers.”

The labour ministry says workers aged 14 and 15 will be able to do “light work” with the permission of a parent or guardian. In some cases, children aged 14 and 15 may be permitted to do work outside the definition of light work with a permit from the Ministry of Labour’s Employment Standards Branch, the ministry said.

The province’s examples of “light work” include:

  • recreation and sports club work, such as lifeguard, coach, golf caddy, camp counsellor, referee and umpire;
  • light farm and yard work, such as gardening, harvesting by hand, clearing leaves and snow, and grass cutting;
  • administrative and secretarial work;
  • retail work, such as stocking shelves, packaging orders, laying out displays, sales and cashier;
  • food service work, such as busing tables, preparing food, dishwashing and serving food and non-alcoholic drinks;
  • skilled and technical work, such as computer programmer, visual artists, graphic designer, writer and editor.

The province says all children aged 12 and over can continue to be employed in a business or on a farm owned by an immediate family member, as long as the work meets provincial safety criteria.

The new rules also do not prevent children from babysitting or delivering newspapers part time, or prevent students from working in a work-study or work-experience class.

The changes will not apply to young performers in recorded and live entertainment.

Prior to the newly announced changes, B.C. was the only province that allowed the employment of children as young as 12, the ministry said Wednesday.

More than $1.1 million in disability claims were paid to workers 14 and younger between 2007 and 2016, according to WorkSafeBC.

The province says it is also working to define “hazardous work” for those aged 16 to 18, with regulatory changes expected later this year.

“We are committed to protecting B.C.’s workers of all ages from unsafe working conditions and unfair labour practices,” Bains said. “And we are improving B.C.’s employment standards to reflect the evolving needs of our workplaces.”

The province says it consulted with more than 1,700 workers, employers and parents before finalizing the youth employment changes earlier this year.


Requiring proof of vaccination allowed in ‘limited circumstances,’ says B.C.’s human rights commissioner

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There are “limited circumstances” in which businesses and service providers can require people to provide proof of vaccination, according to new guidance from B.C.’s human rights commissioner.

Kasari Govender’s guidance, published online this week, stresses that vaccination status policies should only be implemented if “less intrusive means of preventing COVID-19 transmission are inadequate for the setting and if due consideration is given to the human rights of everyone involved.”

The document doesn’t outline specific scenarios that would justify a proof-of-vaccine requirement, but does indicate any such policies should be based on evidence of a transmission risk in a particular setting.

In approaching the thorny issue, Govender weighed the importance of upholding individual rights while also protecting the collective rights to health and safety – which the commissioner acknowledged has been a difficult balancing act throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No one’s safety should be put at risk because of others’ personal choices not to receive a vaccine,” the guidance reads.

“Just as importantly, no one should experience harassment or unjustifiable discrimination when there are effective alternatives to vaccination status policies.”

The commissioner said any policies that treat people differently based on vaccination status must “remain consistent” with the B.C. Human Rights Code, which offers protections to a number of classes, including people with a disability.

Vaccination status policies should also be time-limited – meaning they are implemented for as short a period as possible, and regularly reviewed based on health advice and the state of the pandemic – and be “proportional to the health and safety risks they seek to address,” according to the document.

The commissioner said business and service providers should also keep in mind that any collection, use or disclosure of personal health information such as vaccination status must abide by privacy laws.

Last week, while B.C. was relaxing visitation rules at long-term care homes, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the government would not be requiring workers in those facilities to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Those employees will need to continue wearing masks and adhering to other prevention measures such as “being tested for COVID-19 using rapid tests three times a week,” Henry said.

Henry also announced plans to issue a new public health order requiring long-term care homes to provide the names and personal health numbers of all staff, residents and volunteers, which will be used to determine vaccination rates at each facility and outbreak risks. ‘

Health officials have long warned that seniors are much more vulnerable to falling seriously ill or even dying after catching COVID-19.

To read the full document, “A human rights approach to proof of vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic,” click here.


UWaterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University offering COVID-19 vaccination clinics on campus |

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Both the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University are offering staff and students the opportunity to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on campus.

A vaccination clinic opened at the University of Waterloo on Monday, offering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more:
University of Waterloo planning for on-campus learning in the fall

“This is a positive step for #UWaterloo and an important piece of our overall plans to support a safe and staged return to campus,” the university said on Twitter.

The school says appointments are available to students, employees, and family members of students and employees over the age of 18.

Appointments must be booked over the phone in advance by calling 519-888-4096

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Vaccinated Ontario mother, son say they contracted COVID-19 from basement tenant

Vaccinated Ontario mother, son say they contracted COVID-19 from basement tenant

Across town, Laurier says it will be offering appoints through the summer and the fall.

It offered the option on Monday and will do so again on Friday.

There is a COVID-19 Immunization Intake form on the school’s website for those who wish to book an appointment.

Both schools are planning to have more student activities on campus this fall with more and more people being vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We remain cautiously optimistic, and are putting plans in place to increase our on-campus presence and in-person classes and student experiences, with the goal to return to regular in-person operations with minimal restrictions by winter term,” Laurier notes on its website.

Back in March, University of Waterloo president Feridun Hamdullahpur issued a letter to students that noted how eager staff and students were to return to a semblance of normal campus life.

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Read more:
20,000 people vaccinated in Waterloo Region over the weekend

“The recent news of an increase in the number of vaccines across Canada is giving us reason for new hope,” he wrote.

“It is with that sense of hope that I am pleased to announce that we are planning to deliver significantly more an in-person learning, work and research starting in the Fall 2021 term.”

The University of Waterloo president says his school has developed a flexible plan in an effort to make that a reality.

“We are optimistic that on-campus activity can happen in person with a staged and strategic return to campus,” he said.

“Our goal will be to create as many on-campus experiences as possible starting September.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


Quebec retailers, cinema owners pleased with COVID-19 capacity changes – Montreal |

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Retailers and theatre owners say they’re happy Quebec lifted capacity limits on stores and eased physical distancing rules for entertainment venues, but some operators of performance halls say the changes don’t mean much for them.

On Monday, stores no longer faced COVID-19 capacity limits but were still required to ensure customers kept one metre of distance from each other. Owners of theatres and other performance venues were able to reduce space between patrons from different households to one empty seat instead of 1.5 metres.

Eric Bouchard, co-president of a theatre owners group called the Association des propriétaires de cinémas du Québec, said the change makes a “universe of difference,” especially for smaller theatres.

When the two Montreal-area theatres he co-owns were allowed to reopen in February, they were required to keep two metres of distance between patrons from different households — limiting capacity to around 10 per cent, he said. Bouchard was also forbidden to sell snacks.

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Relaxed Covid Rules

Relaxed Covid Rules

“Now, you can reach up to 65 per cent of capacity, it means a lot,” he said about the new distancing rule. Another thing that’s helping movie theatres, he said, is the release of new films. And while the health orders are still “not ideal,” he described the new rules as a “huge progression.”

But not all venues can take advantage of the distance reduction.

Circus festival Montreal Complètement Cirque will see few additional seats added because its two main venues are already at capacity with 250 people, said Stéphane Lavoie, programming director at circus venue Tohu, which organizes the festival.

While Quebec allows 3,500 people to attend indoor events and up to 5,000 outside, audiences must be separated into sections of 250 people, with separate entrances and washrooms for each section. Lavoie said that with the new rule on physical distancing, only one venue — a cabaret under a big tent — will be able to add 60 seats to bring it close to the 250-person maximum.

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“It’s not a lot,” he said in an interview Monday. “The problem for rooms like the Tohu is the 250 (limit).” While Lavoie said having sections of 250 people might work for an arena, it doesn’t work for concert halls that don’t have multiple entrances and washrooms.

Read more:
Quebec says 2nd vaccine dose allowed for those with previous COVID-19 infection

Lavoie said he understands the need to keep different “bubbles” separated but he doesn’t understand the 250-person capacity for venues, especially when shopping centres and large retail stores can have bigger crowds. “The fact that a retailer or a business can have 300 people walking around and we can’t have more than 250 people seated, we’re a little disappointed,” he said.

Jean-Guy Côté, executive director of the Quebec Retail Council, said retailers have been asking for an end to the pandemic-related restrictions on the number of clients allowed in stores.

“What we saw during the pandemic is, because of the lines, some people were not keen to enter the stores,” he said. “They were just going back to their homes and going to the big retailers online. For the corner stores, the mom-and-pop shops and the local stores, it’s good news.”

Côté said that for retailers, things are almost back to normal, despite the fact they still need to ensure customers stay one metre apart from each other and mask-wearing remains mandatory.

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Quebec reported 52 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and 147 other cases from Friday and Saturday. One COVID-19-related death has been reported since Friday.

© 2021 The Canadian Press


B.C. businesses added to social media ‘blacklist’ for encouraging mask use

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Even though masks are no longer legally mandated in B.C. malls and stores, many businesses continue to encourage mask use for the safety of customers and staff – and that decision is getting them named and shamed on a social media blacklist.

In the private Facebook group Whitelist Blacklist BC Only, users derisively describe masks as “face diapers,” and call the people who advocate for their use during the COVID-19 pandemic “maskholes.”

They also spread the word about which businesses are still requesting that customers cover their mouths and noses in the absence of a province-wide mandate to do so.

Targets include everything from massive casinos to the Wedge Cheesery, a small cheese shop that Matt MacLaren and his wife run in Vernon, a community of about 40,000 people located in the province’s Southern Interior.

The couple learned about the blacklist a few days ago after a barrage of rude comments and anti-masker memes started showing up on the Wedge Cheesery Facebook page.

“We found out about this group where they were posting about people and blacklisting their businesses and saying a whole bunch of nasty things while they’re at it – really childish things, childish behaviour from fully grown adults,” MacLaren told CTV News.

The shop’s website boasts cheese offerings from around the world, cheese tastings with wine, and a goal of bringing “outstanding service, cheese and smiles” to the community.

So what drew so much negative attention? A Facebook post from Wedge Cheesery that said staff would “greatly appreciate” if customers continue to wear a mask for the time being.

MacLaren said none of the shop’s employees are fully vaccinated yet because of their age, and he wanted to make sure they were protected.

“We weren’t in full agreeance, I think, with the mask mandate being lifted,” he said. “We also wanted to make sure our workers felt safe, and so we had a discussion with the manager and we decided that we wouldn’t make it a mandatory thing, but we would appreciate if people still did wear masks in the shop.”

The response in the blacklist group, which has about 2,100 members, was swift.

“Go to hell!”

“Everyone needs to stop shopping there.”

“True colours shining through.”

“I’ll be sure to #boycottwedgechersery” (sic)

“No cheese is good enough to make me wear a mask to buy it.”

The cheese shop’s Facebook post, which has since been deleted, said management would keep encouraging mask use until federal officials declare the COVID-19 crisis over, or until “everyone” is vaccinated, including children under the age of 12.

Several members of the blacklist group were aghast at the suggestion, though manufacturers are currently studying the use of COVID-19 vaccines in younger children, and just this week chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam warned that outbreaks among unvaccinated children will be “a reality going forward.”

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization already recommends that everyone age six months and older receive the annual flu vaccine, with a few rare exceptions.

MacLaren said the meaning behind the shop’s message was misconstrued – they never intended to imply that every single person has to get the COVID-19 vaccine – but it was too late. Before anyone reached out to clarify the shop’s position, the pile-on began.

Beyond the comments, some people left one-star reviews for the Wedge Cheesery online, which MacLaren said is the last thing businesses need after enduring the last 16 months of the pandemic.

“To say I don’t agree with a business’s policy – which is, I feel, a relatively normal policy considering the times we’re in – and blacklist that business because of it, that’s just insane. That’s ridiculous,” he said. “You’re hurting local businesses, the local economy.”

Some of the blacklist group users are under the impression that it’s now against the law for B.C. businesses to require masks, given that the Ministry of Public Safety replaced its mandate with an indoor mask recommendation on July 1.

That’s not the case. Asked about the legality of requiring masks, a ministry spokesperson directed CTV News to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s website, which states that “private businesses have a right to refuse entry to customers not wearing a mask,” and can instead provide curbside pickup options or advise people to shop online.

Businesses do have a responsibility to accommodate customers who can’t wear a mask for reasons related to a disability or medical condition, according to the BCCDC. The Ministry of Public Safety also recommends businesses that choose to require masks make some exceptions, including for children under 12.

Failure to accomodate people with legitimate medical conditions can result in a human rights complaint, though a ruling from the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal earlier this year cautioned that anyone claiming discrimination over mask policies will be required to prove they are unable to wear one.

Some of the blacklist group members do cite health conditions for their inability to wear a mask. Many others consider mask use the behaviour of “zombies” and “sheep.”

In the end, MacLaren said his business ended up getting a minor boost from the online attacks. He shared their story in a local COVID-19 information group, also on Facebook, and received a heartwarming outpouring of support.

“A ton of people left five-star reviews on our Google page after reading what happened – and they’re actual supporters of our shop, people who have been inside,” he said. “Actual customers.”


Shots at the beach: White Rock pop-up clinic targets the unvaccinated

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Sun worshippers on their way to the water passed by a pop-up vaccination clinic at Crescent Beach in White Rock on Tuesday, where staff wore colourful leis and Hawaiian shirts.

“Our idea is that with this warm weather, people are going to enjoy the beach. And we wanted to make a clinic as accessible as possible for everyone,” said Megan Nilson with the Fraser Health mobile vaccination team.

There were 250 Pfizer doses up for grabs, no appointment necessary.

“There are gaps we are seeing in the community, and I think one of those gaps are youth, and so it makes perfect sense. Where are the youth going to be in the summer? Probably on the beach,” said Dr. Birinder Narang, the co-founder of the “This is Our Shot” campaign.

While the beach clinic was focused on attracting people who hadn’t yet had their first shot, second doses were also available if there was capacity, for patients at least seven weeks past their first vaccine.

Shaun Ruetz and Dan McColl both dropped in for their second shots.

“This was great, I liked it. It was more convenient than going to an arranged site, because here I am, and it’s done,” said McColl.

“Other than the parking issues, it’s fantastic. It’s definitely more cheerful to come down here,” said Ruetz. “I think if they make it more accessible and make it seem like, oh, I’m wandering by here I’ll get the shot. It’s right here, why not?”

Narang said the majority of people at drop-in clinics are there for second doses. “However, every single first dose that we get in these clinics will still help the community,” he added.

Around 22 per cent of eligible British Columbians still haven’t had their first dose. Narang acknowledges it will be difficult to convince some of them.

“It’s definitely harder to reach the people who have fixed belief around conspiracy and their thought behind the whole vaccination process and COVID,” he said.

But he believes B.C. can get over 80 per cent of eligible residents vaccinated, and casual, drop-in clinics like the one at Crescent Beach can help with that goal.

“I think convenience and accessibility will be a key to this,” said Narang.

There were nurses and clinic staff on hand to answer questions at the beach clinic, for people who were hesitant, but not completely opposed to vaccination.

“We want our clinics to be accessible for all those who are eligible, and so this is one of the examples that Fraser Health is doing in the community to reach that last 20 per cent,” said Nilsen.

There will be another pop-up beachside clinic at Cultus Lake on Friday.

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