COVID-19 false alarm at Saanich bank prompts concern from nearby businesses

Health authorities confirmed to Coast Capital Savings that the person who may have been exposed to COVID-19 has tested negative for the illness: Feb. 28, 2020 (CTV News)

Business owners in Saanich's Broadmead Village Shopping Centre hope a COVID-19 false alarm at one establishment in the centre will lead to better communication from health officials in the future.

A woman working at the shopping centre's Western Coast Insurance Services was asked to stay home by the Island Health Authority after being in contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Coast Capital Savings and Western Coast Insurance Services then closed their doors for three days last week. Western Financial Group COO Joe Sirianni tells CTV News Vancouver Island she tested negative for the virus and has since returned to work.

"There was no need to close the branch from a public health perspective," said Sirianni. "However, we made the decision to exercise an abundance of caution."

Island Health tells CTV News Vancouver Island that the branch was not closed under the director of Public Health.

"Coast Capital made the decision to close its branch independently and contrary to the advice of Public Health," said Island Health spokesperson, Dominic Abassi. 

During the closure, neighbouring businesses were left in the dark about what was going on. 

Co-owner of Penna & Company Shalene Clermont said she was very disappointed no one let her know what was happening.

"We learned that they were closed through customers," she said. "To my knowledge, we were never told why, we just found out through word of mouth. There was nothing official from anybody."

Lisa Nitkin, the owner of Pets West, said there is a need for more communication by health authorities.

“It would have been better to have some information beforehand, to say, ‘OK this is how we are dealing with it, there is no reason to panic and these are the proper precautions that we need to take or don’t need to take',” said Nitkin. 

Abassi said the provincial government will continue to provide information about confirmed cases of COVID-19, but will not provide details about people in self-isolation or those involved in contact tracing.

"We can confirm everyone potentially exposed to the patient has been contacted by Public Health officials," he said.

Vancouver Island has no confirmed cases of coronavirus at this time.