TD call centre employee in Halifax tests positive for COVID-19

Click to play video 'Halifax call centre employee expresses concern over COVID-19 case' Halifax call centre employee expresses concern over COVID-19 case
WATCH: An employee at the TD Insurance call centre in Halifax, claims there are still 'too many people' working in the building for him to feel safe at work. A confirmed COVID-19 case was reported at the building last week. TD Insurance says it's following public health guidelines and have updated several safety measures – Apr 1, 2020

An employee at a call centre in Halifax says they’re scared to go to work after one of their colleagues tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee, who was granted anonymity to protect their job, tells Global News they first learned of the confirmed case at the TD call centre on Mumford Road last week through a fellow colleague.

They say management told them to be at work on Monday.

“Automatically, as a normal person, I would be scared of staying,” they said. “We share a lot of common areas, whether it’s the kitchen, the bathroom, everything.

“It’s something that each and every one of my colleagues are worried about.”

In a statement to Global News, TD public affairs spokesperson Elizabeth Goldenshtein said staff who were working at the same time as this person as soon as they learned of the positive case.

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They were told to follow Public Health guidelines and self-isolate, Goldenshtein said.

“All other employees working from our office have also been informed. We have also notified Public Health authorities and the landlord of the building,” she said.

READ MORE: Halifax contact centre employee calls for temporary closure after COVID-19 diagnosis at workplace

According to an email sent to employees on Monday, staff were informed of the confirmed case on Friday.

The email, from TD associate vice-president Joshua Hakkenberg, says the employee works on the third floor of the building.

“Thankfully, this colleague is feeling well, and I know all of you join me in wishing them a speedy recovery,” Hakkenberg said, adding that the employee has not been in the office since March 21.

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Hakkenberg says about 15 colleagues were working in the area of the person who tested positive between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“These individuals have been contacted by public health,” he said. “To protect the privacy of our colleagues, we will not be sharing personal details about the impacted colleagues.”

Hakkenberg says a deep clean has been completed on the entire third floor, including all elevators and common areas. He says that was done in accordance with public health guidelines.

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But the employee says they now feel uncomfortable being in the office, even with social-distancing measures in place, mainly because of how many people are still working on site.

“I am not satisfied with [it], and a lot of my colleagues aren’t as well,” they said. “Even though we are six feet apart, we still have too many people in that office.”

Goldenshtein said that Nova Scotia Public Health has advised that the risk to other people on the floor and in the building of contracting the virus “remains low and the office can remain open.”

The employee estimates there are still roughly 100 people working at the call centre and says not all people are respecting the social-distancing guidelines.

“We often see the people, even supervisors, are not respecting the social distancing in the office,” they said.

In his email, Hakkenberg said the company is moving to have all Halifax colleagues set up to work from home. There are currently 182 staff members working from home, he said.

“Over the next few weeks, we hope to have the remainder of the team working from home,” Hakkenberg said. “We will continue to take every necessary precaution and take the necessary preventative measures to keep our workplace safe.”

Goldenshtein added that employees are being split between four floors in order to “enhance physical distancing,” and that all common areas are now closed.

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Nova Scotia prepared to take stricter measures during COVID-19 to keep people safe: McNeil – Mar 29, 2020

But the employee still doesn’t feel safe in the office.

“For myself, I want to self-isolate because I don’t know if I’ve been in contact with that person because we’re sharing a lot of common areas.”

Near the end of his email, Hakkenberg said it is “extremely” important that the information not be shared publicly.

“Also, if you are approached or contacted by the media, please let me or your people manager know so they can be referred to our corporate and public affairs (CAPA) partner,” he said.

Second call centre case in Halifax

Last week, CIBC sent a similar email to staff members at the call centre in downtown Halifax indicating that a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19.

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CIBC spokesperson Tom Wallis told Global News that a deep clean was completed after they became aware of the confirmed case and that any team member who feels unwell is instructed to stay home.

He also said team members across CIBC are eligible for up to 10 additional paid days off to help manage the impact of COVID-19, including being there for family members and taking care of themselves.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 173 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. Eleven of those have since recovered.