All public events scheduled in Calgary between April 3 and the end of June have been cancelled as officials work to flatten the curve of COVID-19.
“The City of Calgary has made a difficult, but I think prudent, decision to cancel all public events up to June 30 in order to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Calgary Emergency Management Agency chief Tom Sampson said in a Friday update.
“This means that in response to the gatherings, even though we’re limiting them to 15 people, we’ve had to say all of those public events are cancelled.”
Sampson said CEMA also cancelled all permits for events that were scheduled in any city parks or facilities until the end of June.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said while the end date for the event cancellations is June 30 — just three days before the 2020 Calgary Stampede is set to get underway — it’s too early to say whether that and other annual celebrations planned for July will be impacted.
“Our decision today does not affect Canada Day, it does not affect Calgary Stampede or the comic expo or the folk festival. We may end up extending the date as we look at the data, as they come in, as we understand where we are on the curve of this pandemic.”
The Calgary Stampede said Friday that planning for the 2020 festivities has been on hold since mass gatherings were banned.
“We will continue to be paused until we get further direction from our government partners,” spokesperson Kristina Barnes said.
“The Stampede is a not-for-profit organization and this decision is bigger than us, as there are many implications for the entire community. That is why we are working closely with our government partners and awaiting further direction.”
Barnes said organizers are assessing “what may be probable, possible and not possible with respect to all programming in the coming months given that the full impact of COVID-19 on the community remains unknown.”
Last month, the Stampede laid off 80 per cent of its workforce after it was forced to scale back activity in light of COVID-19.
Nenshi did say that if major sports teams, like the Calgary Flames and Calgary Stampeders, were to resume their seasons before the end of June, games and mass gatherings around them would be banned as part of the cancellations.
Meantime, a total of 79 events have been cancelled between now and the end of June, including indoor and outdoor festivals as well as the traditional Neighbour Day block parties that each year celebrate how Calgarians came together to support each other during and after the 2013 flood.
Nenshi is asking the public to come up with ways to still celebrate Neighbour Day on the third Sunday of June, but without the mass gatherings. Anyone with ideas is encouraged to reach out to the city by email or social media using the hashtag #YYCNeighbourDay.
The mayor said right now, there are no plans to mirror Edmonton’s move to put restrictions on the city’s off-leash dog parks, but he also didn’t say it wasn’t out of the question.
He said officials are trying to strike a balance between encouraging social distancing and also giving people a place to get outside and be active.
Nenshi said as long as Calgarians are respecting physical distancing and not petting other people’s dogs while at the parks, they will stay open.
Calgarians are also encouraged to be mindful of physical distancing when using taxis or ridesharing services like Uber. Sampson said people should take one vehicle per person if possible. When in that vehicle, he said people should sit in the back and in the diagonally opposite seat from the driver to give ample space.
Drive-by birthday surprises
In an attempt to ease the pain some are feeling around not being able to get together with friends and loved ones, especially those celebrating birthdays during this time, the Calgary Fire Department has launched a birthday surprise campaign aimed at brightening spirits.
“We’re launching a program today called Drive-by Birthdays,’ Chief Steve Dongworth said.
“We will do our best to get a fire truck on that day outside that house and we’re going to leave it to our crews to be innovative on how they wish you a happy birthday, although it will be with respect to physical distancing of course.”
Dongworth said the program will run until the end of May, but it could be extended considering Friday’s suspension of public events. He added that firefighters are still required to respond to emergency calls, so timing of your fire truck visit may vary depending on call loads.
The city also announced on Friday that new online resources would be coming to the calgary.ca/covid-19 page for everyone from seniors to kids to business owners.
In tabs on the website, Calgarians will soon be able to find specifics on things like who to call and when, financial relief available from upper levels of government and how to access food. There will also be a section devoted to emotional wellness and mental health.
The city said there will be information for specific groups including seniors, children and youth, newcomers, Indigenous people and families.
Earlier this week, the city announced major changes to the way Calgary Transit will work for the time being, including fewer buses and CTrains running on routes, and restrictions around seating to encourage social distancing.
The city also reminded residents that places like skate parks and playgrounds are closed to the public.
On Thursday, Calgary fully closed its entire Plus 15 network in the downtown core as another measure to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.View link »