As public health moves the St. John health area to the orange stage of the pandemic recovery, the CEO of the St. John Region Chamber of Commerce said many in the business community are worried about the severity of further closures.
The COVID-19 outbreak has led to several coronavirus exposure notifications in bars and restaurants in St. John-Area, prompting many business owners to close temporarily beyond regional recommendations.
By the end of the epidemic, Chamber CEO David Duplicia estimated that 30 percent of St. John’s local businesses had closed shop for good.
He said the return to the St. John Orange stage would serve as a reminder to businesses to strictly adhere to regional guidelines. He believes that if businesses are not active, the region could close back into the red zone, forcing a second round of business shutdowns.
“We keep our fingers from spreading and we can’t go red,” Duplicia said. “But we do not know and we do not know for 10-14 days what happened last weekend.”
The veto closed its three locations after a positive test by staff at the Rothesey Avenue location. Other companies, such as St. John’s Ale House, have chosen to close temporarily, even though they have not been notified of the virus.
Duplicia said it was a positive step for restaurants to put public health and safety at the forefront. He said it was a sign that business owners were responsible, but beware of any less information we have about current contact tracing operations.
“Businesses’ someone from that group may have come into our bar, so we need to be careful,” Duplicia said.
That kind of commitment to public safety is part of what Dupleixia believes is a special relationship between small businesses and communities.
He said the loss of a significant portion of local businesses in small cities like St. John’s would be very strong.
“Everyone knows everyone, we feel a degree of separation and a little more personal impact in our area … we’re all connected in some way, a small ecosystem.”
Duplicia said that despite his significant toll on local business communities, many business owners are creative and finding new ways to stay afloat.
“The Christmas season is their big season, and they’re going to embrace whatever they can to keep it open,” he said. “We are looking at businesses that have delivery models, they have promotions. We are going to see more of that now. We went orange on Friday, so a lot of people spent the weekend wondering what this meant for their business. I think I’m going to pivot and receive them. ”
For his part, Duplicia urges everyone to follow regional COVID-19 guidelines to get back to the yellow stage as soon as possible.