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Surging Omicron variant presents more challenges for Delta businesses

Patience required from customers in days and weeks ahead with potential staffing issues
COVID business
The surging Omicron variant could lead to staffing shortages or reduced hours for Delta businesses in the days and weeks ahead.

The Delta business community is asking for a level of patience as it deals with more potential obstacles regarding COVID-19.

It was during a media briefing last week Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry warned what the surging Omicron variant could mean in the days ahead to daily business operations.

“We need to anticipate that as many as a third of your workforce at any one time may become ill with COVID-19, and they may not be able to come to work,” said Henry. She noted the latest strain is harder to detect, since it causes milder upper respiratory symptoms that could be very similar to a cold or influenza, at least early on. “We need to adapt businesses so we can operate at these reduced numbers.”

Henry also ordered all B.C. businesses to have a COVID-19 safety plan in place. The plan will include employees working from home when possible, practicing physical distancing, and keeping staff separate from customers. The order is specific to industry and businesses.

It all adds up to more challenges for Delta businesses and adapting on the fly to keep doors open even if it means the same level of customer service or operating hours can’t be provided.

“While Delta has not yet seen significant reductions in business hours offered at many of our retail and service outlets, this still remains a likely possibility for the future. I suspect that when faced with a workplace shortage, many businesses will either shorten their hours while continuing to offer service multiple days a week or we may see businesses respond by reducing the number of days a week they are open,” said Delta Chamber of Commerce executive director Jill McKnight. “Each business will make the decision that works best for their business model. I can say with certainty that many business owners are concerned about this for the coming weeks and months. The challenge is planning for something which you don’t know when you will need to implement.

“Fortunately, in the early part of the pandemic, many Delta businesses showed their resiliency and adaptability by learning new skills and pivoting to move to online ordering, curbside pick-up and virtual service offerings. As the Omicron cases increase, customers and businesses alike, can re-apply these skills to pivot back to alternative service offerings.”

In Ladner, there has fortunately been no temporary business closures or reduced hours so far, but that could change on a day-to-day basis.

“We have not heard directly from any of the member businesses, nor have we polled any businesses or made inquiries at this time. That said, many of us have heard of friends, associates or family members that have recently been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID, so it is possible that staffing levels in local businesses are or will be impacted,” noted Ladner Business Association president Janice Lawlor-Cooper.

McKnight added the latest health restrictions that have led to the temporary closure of indoor fitness facilities and dance studios have resulted in some of those businesses improvising to serve their customers and students.

“We have seen them return to virtual coaching, loaning out equipment for clients to work from home and switching to outdoor classes, even with sub-zero temperatures, continued McKnight. “We acknowledge and thank these businesses for following the public health orders. We will continue to do all that we can to support these impacted businesses and share available supports with them as soon as they come online.

“We are also hearing that a number of businesses have temporarily resumed having their employees work from home and for those who do have employees home sick, temporarily redistributing responsibilities to cover any gaps in service while employees are off. 

“In some cases, the employees who are off are asymptomatic and as such, there has been little change in their ability to deliver in their roles. In other instances, we have heard about whole families who are home sick and even family members who are all isolating in different rooms of the house, because they are in varying stages of the illness.”

McKnight adds Delta Chamber of Commerce continues to be a valuable resource for all Delta businesses (not only Chamber members) about current public health announcements, available government supports and all matters relating to COVID support during the pandemic.

Businesses looking for more information are encouraged to reach out to the chamber at 604-946-4232.