Party buses are still on Vancouver’s streets in the middle of a pandemic.
Despite strict guidelines outlining the maximum allowable number of people in many stores, clubs, and restaurants, the rules are decidedly murky about how many people may occupy a vehicle.
WorkSafeBC Media Spokesperson Ivy Yuen tells Vancouver Is Awesome in an email that guidance to employers in the transportation sector during the pandemic includes a hierarchy of controls.
"The first level of protection is physical distance, which may include occupancy limits or rearranging work spaces. If physical distancing is not possible, other levels of protection include installing barriers, such as Plexiglass, implementing rigorous cleaning and disinfecting practices, and personal protective equipment, such as masks,' writes Yuen.
That said, Yuen also notes that it is up to employers to assess the risks to workers and implement measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.
To assist employers with the COVID-19 Safety Plan, WorkSafeBC has developed safety protocols for the transportation sector during the pandemic. However, the agency notes that the nature of this sector can make it difficult to exercise adequate physical distancing, particularly in smaller vehicles. And while employers are expected to limit the number of customers, a party bus can hold as many as 35 people.
Some of the companies that V.I.A. reached out to said that they have 35 to 30 person party buses, but that they are reducing the number of passengers to ensure physical distancing. However, in some cases, as many as 25 people could still be booked on a 30 person bus. With the total number of passengers reduced by a mere five individuals, it is difficult to imagine that there could be adequate physical distance between bus occupants.
In addition, many party bus companies do not require that passengers wear masks.
For restaurants, WorkSafeBC guidelines clearly state that no more than six persons may occupy a table. When it comes to the transportation sector, there is no specific number. As such, the maximum number of allowable occupants for a given vehicle may vary significantly depending on what the employer feels is appropriate.
In Monday's briefing, Henry stated that “if you are invited to a party or social event, and something doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t right for you or for your friends. It only takes one person with COVID-19 to cause a surge in new cases and for hundreds of people to be in self-isolation.
“You don’t have to go along to get along. Rather, invite your family and friends to instead join you to have safe social interactions this summer."