Kenny Podmore, Sidney’s Town Crier, has cancelled his trip to England because of COVID 19. Several local organizations and businesses have already seen some impacts because of COVID 19 and are actively monitoring the situation (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Few cancellations in Sidney as people monitor COVID-19 situation

Key facilities like the Mary Winspear Centre have not yet seen any cancellations

As COVID-19 cases continue to appear across B.C., including the first case on Vancouver Island, individuals, organizations and businesses on the Saanich Peninsula have already cancelled some events, while keeping an eye on developments.

Kenny Podmore, Sidney’s Town Crier, won’t be flying to England to visit his family, because of COVID-19, having already cancelled his trip last week for fears of not being able to return. As a senior, he also falls into the risk category. The global spread has also acquired a personal dimension for Podmore. His sister-in-law is currently recovering in a hospital where a patient has died of COVID-19. Podmore said he feels comfortable with his decision to stay home in light of current developments.

Jordan Milne, president and chief executive officer of GMC Projects, announced Thursday morning that his company has postponed until further notice a community meeting scheduled for March 18 to consider his company’s proposed re-development of the Cedarwood Inn and Suites. His cited reasons included among others the desire to protect vulnerable groups such as seniors, with many of the residents in the area and the Saanich Peninsula as a whole falling into that category.

Just under 41 per cent of Sidney’s 11,672 residents (2016 Census) are 65 years and older, with 9.7 per cent 85 years and older. The corresponding figures for North Saanich’s 11,249 residents are 31.7 per cent and 2.9 per cent, for Central Saanich’s 16,814 residents, 25.5 per cent and 4.3 per cent.

Health officials across the world have not only singled out senior residents as a high risk category, but also asked individuals to avoid events that draw large crowds. While traditional events drawing large crowds of locals and visitors onto Sidney street are still some time off, Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre is a popular venue for touring musicians, speakers and other events.

Philip Sutton, theatre manager, said Wednesday afternoon that his office has not had any cancellations or received requests to cancel events at the centre. Nor is the centre currently anticipating any cancellations, he added.

“We educate staff while updating policies daily by gathering information and actions taken from theatres in B.C. and across Canada, local businesses, and the Town of Sidney,” he said. “We also regularly monitor the internet watching for COVID-19 updates including following current guidelines posted from the Town of Sidney, Health Canada, and BC Health.

Current precautions include posting handwashing signs posted with Work Safe BC guidelines throughout all washrooms in the Centre, increasing the number of hand sanitizing stations, continuously disinfecting seating, railings, door handles, light switches, and cash machines, he said.

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Kerry Reedshaw, communication manager for Beacon Community Services, which operates Sidney’s SHOAL Centre for Seniors, said her organization has seen a modest downturn of attendance to its variety of programs.

“We are not seeing a significant impact at this point,” she said. “There may be situations, where attendance might be slowing down a bit, where perhaps people are choosing to stay home and re-evaluate.” Reedshaw added that her organization will continue to monitor the situation around COVID-19 in conjunction with health authorities to see whether it might be necessary to cancel offerings.

“But we have not had indications that this is required at this point,” she said.

As for the assisted living facility operated by Beacon Community Services in partnership with Vancouver Island Health, safety processes and protocols are in place, said Reedshaw. “The measures that are recommended for COVID-19 are also consistent with the measures recommended for other viruses and such,” she said. “We do follow those protocols.”

As the situation evolves, Beacon Community Services will update its measures, she said. “We will just continue to monitor and we would take whatever steps are required, keeping in mind that the health and the welfare of the residents and the people that we serve, as well as our staff and volunteers is paramount.”

Overall, life in Sidney appears to unfold normally, but there is also evidence of change in the air. As Wednesday afternoon wound down, an employee at LifeLabs Medical Laboratory Services on Bevan Avenue could be seen wiping down the door handles on the business.

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