Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's economy starts reopening June 5, but not all businesses are ready

Premier Stephen McNeil announced this week that the province's economy will begin to reopen June 5, but some business owners are still trying to figure out what that means for them and how to navigate new public health rules amid COVID-19.

As some businesses try to secure protective equipment, others await details

Hair salons are one of many types of businesses that will be permitted to reopen on June 5 in Nova Scotia, provided they are in step with new public health guidelines. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

For weeks, Premier Stephen McNeil said his government was waiting to announce its reopening plan for the economy so businesses would know what's required of them and be ready to go "on Day 1."

Day 1, as the public learned Wednesday, is June 5 in the eyes of public health and the provincial government, but it won't be at Scott Wyman's barber shop.

Wyman, the sole proprietor of Yarmouth Barber, said not long after the premier's announcement on Wednesday, his phone "exploded with people looking for appointments."

But right now, he's building a wait list with those names because until he can secure all of the personal protective equipment he's required to have, he doesn't know when he can actually reopen, and until he knows that date, he's not booking appointments.

One of the major rule changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic is the requirement for barbers and their clients to both be wearing masks. Getting those has proved to be a challenge, said Wyman.

"I actually tried to get ahead of it. I ordered from Amazon in early May, and this stuff is just not going to arrive for [June 5]," he said.

One of the major rule changes in Nova Scotia is the requirement for barbers and their clients to both be wearing masks. (Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images)

Wyman thinks he's located another supply, which would allow him to open in several weeks. But whenever it happens, things will be slower, he won't be able to see as many customers and he's no longer allowed to do beard trims and face shaves, which mean a loss of a key revenue source.

"There's no way I'm going to generate the revenue I used to, even with a price increase," he said. "I'm certainly going to lose money."

At Thumpers Salon in Halifax, Malcolm Norton's phone is also ringing off the hook. His personal protective equipment has arrived and is ready to be set up, but Norton's frustration is more about the fact he can only have 10 people in his shop at any one time.

With 12 stylists plus a receptionist, that's a problem.

"We cannot operate a salon without a receptionist at the front, so that cuts us down to four stylists," he said, noting the salon has 22 chairs.

If ready, some businesses can reopen on June 5. But as the CBC's Colleen Jones reports, retooling a business in the era of COVID-19 in an uncertain econony can be overwhelming. 3:12

The salon will be operating 12 hours a day in an effort to get in all the work they can and remain in step with the new guidelines. Norton is concerned the guidelines for reopening are geared more toward the restaurant industry and he thinks other businesses, such as grocery stores, are being given more leeway when it comes to how many people are allowed in certain spaces.

"I don't think anybody really thought it through for our industry," he said. "I don't think they're very friendly to our industry, actually, and I really hope that changes soon."

Lara Cusson's primary concern about reopening guidelines is that she's still waiting to get them.

There will be increased use of PPE when dental clinics reopen in Nova Scotia. (Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images)

The owner of Café Lara in Halifax has been operating a takeout window recently and she's anxious to be able to open her doors to customers, but she's frustrated the rules haven't been communicated yet. Until they are, a variety of decisions she needs to make are on hold.

"A lot of businesses are in this sort of limbo," she said. "They don't know how many people they can bring back to work and what that looks like."

Cusson said she's hoping municipalities across the province will do some type of street closures, so patios can be expanded and businesses, such as hers, are able to serve more customers while also adhering to physical distancing guidelines.

'We can't just resume business as usual'

It isn't just the service industry, however, that won't be operating at full capacity on June 5.

Although dental offices will be allowed to open that day if they are ready, for the first few weeks it will only be for urgent and emergency care.

Dr. Joanne Thomas, president of the Nova Scotia Dental Association, said she's hoping the "soft re-entry" will help dentists and their staff prepare to ramp up for full service later in June. The association has been trying to help offices secure all the new personal protective equipment they will need, she said.

Lara Cusson is the owner of Café Lara on Halifax's Agricola Street. She hopes municipalities across the province do some type of street closures, so patios can be expanded and businesses can serve more customers, while also adhering to physical distancing guidelines. (CBC)

But just like the people who are trying to get a haircut from Wyman, Thomas said patients cannot expect things to snap right back to normal.

"We can't just resume business as usual," she said.

Grants available for many businesses

Care will first focus on cases that involve bleeding, pain, trauma and infection. Then offices can move on to broken dentures or teeth impeding comfort and function, said Thomas.

"And then we'll gradually go back to routine care after the 19th of June," she said.

Along with the reopening date, McNeil also announced a $25-million grant program on Wednesday, which will make grants of up to $5,000 available for small business, non-profits and other operations, including dental offices.

The program is intended to help the recipients with the costs related to reopening and also includes $1,500 worth of in-kind business counselling services.

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With files from Colleen Jones

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