Amid vaccine passport rollout, students appear apprehensive about workplace safety protocols
Starting Sept. 22, proof of vaccination will be required across Ontario to access many non-essential businesses, such as casinos, indoor dining, movie theatres, night clubs and sporting arenas.
For some working students at Ryerson University, hope for a “new normal” is right around the corner. For others, the launch of the vaccine passport is sparking a much larger discussion about health and safety concerns in the workplace.
Exempt from the vaccine passport are the retail sector, the grocery industry and outdoor dining, as well as personal care services like groomers and estheticians. This excludes both patrons and workers of these economic sectors.
Any business is eligible to enforce proof of vaccination upon entry, however it is up to the discretion of the owner rather than the employees.
Third-year student Zoie Karagiannis works at COBS Bread, a bakery chain with locations in Toronto.
According to Karagiannis, her bakery location will not require proof of immunization. “With an immunocompromised mother back at home, knowing I’m risking my life at work to potentially bring [COVID-19] into my house is something I’m struggling with,” she says.
Karagiannis feels that safety protocols for customers at COBS Bread might be too relaxed. “A co-worker of mine quit two weeks ago because she was forced to serve someone without a mask. It seems they don’t need to wear a mask, they don’t need to be vaccinated.”
“Unfortunately, it’s conflicting to be an employee there right now,” she says.
At the moment, going out into the public is a risk most have been willing to take in an effort to return to normalcy. When entering bars, cafés, gyms and even shopping malls, however, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not others are vaccinated or showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Second-year student Sophia Benek works at Wilfred in the Eaton Centre. “The passport system isn’t a big deal to me; everyone should have the freedom to decide whether or not they want to be vaccinated,” she says.
Benek had previously contracted COVID-19 months before becoming immunized. “I still feel safe working in retail; I don’t believe the passports to be essential, as regardless of immunization, you can still catch COVID-19.”
Despite being given the choice to get vaccinated or not, there are workers who still face a great deal of daily risk at their workplaces.
Third-year student Helen Huang works at CRAFT Beer Market Toronto and says she feels uncomfortable that a vaccine passport will not be required to dine outdoors.
“As a waitress, I don’t see much of a difference between gyms and a restaurant,” she says. “If anything, at a restaurant there’s more contact with people— there’s the responsibility of taking away dirty dishes, being within arm’s distance of guests without a mask on and even clearing half-eaten food off tables.”
Huang feels as though she’s been given less of a promise of safety than others. “I’ve come to accept that this is the industry I work in. Passport or not, unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do to prevent catching COVID-19.”
For first-year student Brean Maguire, sectors like personal services and those that require workers to remove their masks should require proof of immunization.
“Having been fully vaccinated since May, I’m still OK to continue with outdoor dining and retail, however, the moment that case counts rise, I can see myself getting more worried.”
Maguire says he is relieved that on Sept. 22, he can go to work at his local pub knowing that everyone dining indoors is fully vaccinated.
As of Sept. 12, roughly 84 per cent of Ontarians over the age of 12 have received one dose of the vaccine while nearly 78 per cent have two doses.
By implementing this passport, basic errands will become a task for the unvaccinated. According to a Sept. 1 press release, the Ontario government is hoping that by doing this, it will encourage unvaccinated individuals to come forward and get their vaccines.