Staff at the Shaw Salish Centre for the Salish Sea, here Cathy Tran, Liv Dunsdon and Deanne Mathewson, have been taking extra measures to help slow down the spread of COVID-19 (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Sidney Museum closes in wake of COVID-19 spread

Shaw Centre for Salish Sea, local churches see smaller number

The Sidney Museum announced Sunday afternoon that it will close for the foreseeable future as efforts to fight the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) through social distancing are starting to impact local institutions.

“We know that seniors are at high risk of serious illness due to COVID-19 and want to ensure the safety of our community, volunteers and visitors,” said Alyssa Gerwing, assistant director, in an email. The facility closed its doors at 4 p.m. “Being socially responsible we want to do our part to help promote ‘social distancing’ to prevent the spread of this virus,” she said. “As this is a fluid situation, we will remain closed until we receive further notice that it is safe to re-open Sidney Museum.” Gerwing said the closure includes all reference appointments for the archives as well school bookings for the museum.

Gerwing asked residents to follow the museum’s website for more information and updates in apologizing for any inconveniences. “The decision to close was not taken lightly and is based on the latest information being released by regional, provincial and federal public health authorities,” she said.

Two Sidney locations that regularly draw crowds remain open for now, but have reported declines against the backdrop of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Father Rolf Hasenack of St. Elizabeth’s Church says Sunday service drew about 100 people, down from about 500 people.

“Absolutely, it’s a big drop,” he said. “But it’s good, when people observe what the recommendations are, before they become mandatory. We may be faced with that too, which is done elsewhere.”

Hasenack made those comments after the provincial government asked event organizers across British Columbia to cancel all gatherings of 250 people or more as part of a larger agenda of “social distancing” to slow down the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus currently spreading around the world. As of Sunday afternoon, the pandemic has caused 73 cases in British Columbia. Four people have recovered, and one person has died from the illness in the province.

RELATED: Camosun College cancels all public events amid COVID-19

ALSO READ: Test comes back negative for potential COVID-19 case at Glenlyon Norfolk School

In light of these recommendation from health officials, the church sent out an email to parishioners Friday, asking elderly people not to come, said Hasenack. The church also posted a sign, asking attendees to keep their distance from each other. Recommended measures call for a distance of two metres. These measures decreased attendance during the church’s Saturday evening mass, as well Sunday’s morning mass. The church also cancelled other social events scheduled for the period after mass.

Service scheduled for Our Lady of the Assumption was cancelled outright because of its small size, said Hosenack, adding that it would have been impossible to maintain appropriate distances.

READ ALSO: Here’s what’s cancelled in Greater Victoria due to coronavirus pandemic

Numbers were down also at Sidney’s Shaw Salish Centre for the Salish Sea, according to Deanne Mathewson, director, volunteer and business development. Spring time is normally a busy period at the centre, she said.

“We had a slow start,” she said Sunday afternoon. This said, visiting families and regular members have been coming in and numbers at the centre fluctuate in any case with weather (along other variables), which was brisk, but sunny Sunday afternoon.

She added later that the centre has seen a handful of cancellations from school tour groups.

Mathewson said the centre has been taken extra pre-cautions for some time to help slow down the spread. They include additional signage urging visitors to wash their hands, additional hand sanitizer, and stepped up cleaning of areas where frequent touching takes places (like the entrance but others as well). The centre has also removed stuffies, puzzles, and other items that visitors commonly touch when in the centre, she said.

Ultimately, the centre, like so many other institutions and businesses, is monitoring the situation as it unfolds, said Mathewson, noting that everything is changing rapidly.

Elsewhere in Sidney, as much as one can read the collective mood, things appeared relatively normal, as people, often walking together in groups, were going about their day in trying to enjoy the sunny weather, perhaps in following the advice to spend time outdoors. This said, Sidney’s Waterfront Walkway appeared less busy compared to other sunny days.


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