There was confusion and anxiety at Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo today after the mall’s parent company, Ivanhoe Cambridge, sent out a memo informing tenants that a person who worked at the shopping centre had tested positive for COVID-19.
The memo, which was sent out on Tuesday afternoon to mall managers and tenants, said that the person is “no longer” in the shopping centre. However, the memo did not say when the infected individual tested positive, where they worked within the mall, or how long ago they left the mall.
“We have been informed that a person working at Woodgrove Centre tested positive for COVID-19. Ivanhoé Cambridge has been following protocols and guidelines to respond to this situation,” wrote Charles Fleck, Ivanhoé Cambridge’s B.C. regional manager.
Faith Avery, who works at the mall, told CHEK that when she found out about the memo, she was concerned.
“When I found that out honestly it was really scary,” said Avery, who works at the mall, adding. “If they had done a test already, then they knew that there was a possible outbreak of it and as someone who works at the mall it was something that should have been disclosed to us a lot sooner.”
Employees weren’t the only ones concerned.
“You know for it to be so close to where we are, it was quite a shock. And then not to know where it is, nobody tells us, so we really don’t know where to walk or what stores to go in, its kind of scary. So, yeah its a worry,” Christine Fortune, a shopper and local resident, told CHEK Wednesday.
In a bizarre twist on Canada Day, the north Nanaimo shopping mall said 24 hours later that the memo was all just a mistake.
In a statement released Wednesday evening, Woodgrove Centre said they were notified that the person who tested positive was not working at the mall.
“We have just been informed that the person who tested positive for COVID-19 was not working at Woodgrove Centre. Meanwhile, rest assured that we have been following health and safety protocols and guidelines in our mall,” the statement said.
Woodgrove stressed that the health and safety of their employees, tenants, customers and other guests is of the highest importance to them and that the will continue to diligently disinfect the common areas throughout the shopping centre, such as countertops, entry doors, door handles, and railings.
In a follow-up e-mail with CHEK News, Heather Fisk, the mall’s marketing manager, said there was a mix-up and the memo went to the Woodgrove instead of another shopping centre, but would not say which one.
“I am unable to confirm the other centre,” Fisk said.
Ivanhoé Cambridge operates dozens of malls across Canada, including Mayfair Shopping Centre, Tsawwassen Mills, and Metropolis at Metrotown.
Asked whether someone did test positive for COVID-19 but was not technically an employee at a store at Woodgrove but recently visited the shopping centre, Fisk said that isn’t the case in this situation. She also said Woodgrove has a “diligent and detailed” procedure in place should someone actually test positive.
“We do have a very diligent and detailed procedure in place should there be a positive case that includes quarantining, deep cleaning the property, and notifying stakeholders,” Fisk explained.
When questioned as to whether the shopping centre would be making any changes to its policies or procedures following the mixup, Fisk said Woodgrove is always learning and making improvements.
“We are constantly evaluating our policies and procedures, learning from every situation to improve our best practices and maintaining Woodgrove as a safe, happy place for our community,” Fisk said.
A spokesperson for Island Health had told CHEK News they were unaware of any reported cases at Woodgrove Centre, stressing that no one at the mall tested positive for COVID-19.
There have been 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the Island Health region, which covers all of Vancouver Island as well as some areas north of the Sunshine Coast.
Multiple stores @WoodgroveCentre in #Nanaimo are confirming to @CHEK_News that a letter stating that a person who worked at the mall has tested positive for #COVID19 @cheknews Email was received Tuesday, though store it happened in was not identified. pic.twitter.com/RaEhuoAYdq
— Skye Ryan (@SkyeRyanCHEK) July 1, 2020