Difference between health requirements and recommendations causing confusion
CALGARY -- Alberta has a new way of doing business during COVID-19. From wearing masks to extra sanitizing, there are many new rules for business owners and staff to follow — but navigating the guidelines can be difficult.
"There is confusion, but that’s to be expected," says Oliver Ho, a Calgary lawyer and partner at JSS Barristers.
"There’s a lot of literature out there and, just because it comes from the Government of Alberta’s website, doesn’t mean it is a law that you can be fined for."
One of the main points of confusion, Ho says, is which measures businesses must implement.
The province has recommendations and requirements for businesses and they are different in every sector.
Take masks, for example. The province says it is a requirement for businesses to comply with distancing rules and achieve a safe environment. If distancing isn’t possible, there has to be some type of barrier in place between people in close quarters.
Many restaurants and personal grooming services have achieved this by making masks mandatory for staff, but not all have.
Peters’ Drive-In Calgary decided not to have its employees wear masks. Instead, the company installed plexiglass barriers between staff members inside and drive-thru windows provide separation between staff members and customers.
"We have considered the use of face masks and have opted not to use them over concerns that they would encourage people to touch their faces - the exact opposite of what we want to achieve," said Peters’ owner Stephen Hayden in a statement to CTV News.
"AHS is more than happy with our approach after having visited each of our locations."
Health officials say there have been some businesses not following guidelines.
"What I would say with respect to these locations where there are reports of the guidance not being followed is that those organizations are incurring upon themselves a liability, that they're incurring upon themselves the chance for large outbreaks to happen," said chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw Wednesday.
Some lawyers say liability isn’t very straightforward, because the COVID-19 relaunch is uncharted territory.
"While we have a base of laws in how liability is going to be determined, ultimately organizations and businesses are going to be held to a standard that, frankly, we don’t have the standard yet," Ho said. "The courts haven’t decided any of these cases."
The province says people with concerns about businesses not following public health requirements can submit a violation complaint at alberta.ca.