Coronavirus: Saskatoon businesses balance protecting employees’ health and staying open

New measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan have come into effect, adding to the growing list of businesses closing doors indefinitely.

Some are finding ways to protect staff and stay open — but not everyone.

Under new provincial orders, restaurants can only be open for takeout and delivery. Places like hair salons, theaters, nightclubs and many other businesses must close.

You can read a full list of restrictions here.

Koncept Sign Group Inc., a sign making company in Saskatoon, closed last week. Technically they don’t have to, but the owners say they have an immunocompromised employee.

“We deal with a lot of the community, I’m out all the time, we have customers coming in all the time so we just wanted to make sure everybody was safe,” said owner Derek Reimer.

Reimer laid off five employees and closed his doors indefinitely.

“It’s not an easy feeling being a small business owner knowing that you’re closed, indefinitely,” he said.

“Knowing that you’ve got bills to pay, you still have staff to take care of, it’s pretty uncomfortable to be honest.”

Prime Minister Justine Trudeau unveiled an $82 -aid package on March 19 for families and businesses. Of that, the federal government said it will provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses.

While the money is “helpful and appreciated”, the North Saskatoon Business Association says it wants to see more aid going directly to businesses.

“There’s really no idea of how these businesses are going to generate revenue in the short term,” said executive director Keith Moen.

“The reality is not everyone is going to reopen after the fact.”

It’s not all bad news for D’Lish by Tish. The café has gotten creative with staying open. Like many businesses still open, it has X’s taped on the floor 6-feet apart for customers to line up on.

It’s offering pick-up, and even started a makeshift drive-thru. Staff have disposable gloves. All these measures are to keep staff and customers safe, owner Tish Paget said.

“About half of my staff have stayed home, all kinds of different reasons,” said Tish, who employs 30 people.

“I’ve assured them that any decisions made right now won’t affect their job security when they come back. When this all comes around, I want employees to do what feels best for them.”

Thousands of jobs are expected to be lost in the province. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour says anyone who has a reason not to work should take time off.

“Employers need to make sure that they are supplying personal protective equipment and the appropriate kind of equipment and making sure that there’s plenty of it,” said president Lori Johb.

On Monday, the provincial government announced it created a Business Response Team to help with the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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