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How Manitobans can safely celebrate Canada Day during the pandemic

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2020-06-28 Rachel Bergen
a person standing in front of a flag: People wanting to celebrate Canada Day will have to be creative this year. The big celebrations in Winnipeg were cancelled or shifted to a virtual party in light of COVID-19. © Bruce Reeve/CBC People wanting to celebrate Canada Day will have to be creative this year. The big celebrations in Winnipeg were cancelled or shifted to a virtual party in light of COVID-19.

Celebrating Canada Day will no doubt be different this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing public health orders.

This year, gathering in big groups is a recipe for disaster, because there's no way to know if everyone is healthy and following public health orders, said Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor in the department of medical microbiology and infectious diseases at the University of Manitoba.

"This isn't a time to let down our guard. We're not at a point where we're past the pandemic. The virus is still there," he said.

"What we do have some control over is the extent to which the virus is able to gain a foothold in our community."

Although many of the public health orders have lifted, event planners aren't taking any risks.

The Osborne Village street party and the celebration at Assiniboine Park are cancelled this year.

What's normally a massive event at The Forks is also shifting to ensure everyone's health and safety.

Online party

The Forks is hosting an hour-long variety show that will be live streamed on multiple platforms.

In the absence of live music and fireworks on Canada Day, Archangel Fireworks will showcase a video of a fireworks demonstration filmed in a secret location. It will feature a performance by local singer Faouzia.

Singer-songwriter Taylor Janzen was slated to perform with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on Canada Day, but instead she will perform with a WSO cellist.

There will also be a rendition of O Canada captured in a canoe on the Assiniboine River.

CBC is hosting its own celebration with Canadian Heritage.

The virtual celebration will feature artistic collaborations from across the country, hosted by Serena Ryder and Pierre-Yves Lord.

Watch the broadcast live on CBC Television or stream it live on CBC Gem. You can also watch the same bilingual broadcast on Radio-Canada.

If walking or running is more palatable, the Manitoba Runners' Association is hosting a virtual Canada Day Super Run to engage people from all over the province in walking, running or wheeling for their physical and mental well-being.

For those planning their own celebration, there are some things to keep in mind.

Gathering sizes

Manitoba moved into Phase 3 of its reopening strategy last week, which means larger gathering sizes are allowed.

In general, indoor gathering sizes are now limited to 50 people and outdoor ones are capped at 100 people, as long as everyone can stay two metres apart.

Those limits can be expanded if attendees can be split into separate groups that don't intermingle, though.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province's chief provincial public health officer, has called this practice "cohorting," and each of the sub-groups, or cohorts, has to be able to enter, exit and participate in the event separately from the others.

fireworks in the sky: Archangel Fireworks says everyday Manitobans can easily set up and safely use fireworks this Canada Day. © CBC Archangel Fireworks says everyday Manitobans can easily set up and safely use fireworks this Canada Day.

Under that system, indoor gatherings can exceed the 50-person limit — to a maximum of 30 per cent of the site's capacity — as long as each subgroup has no more than 50 people. In outdoor settings, the subgroups can go up to 100 people per group.

Those rules apply to gatherings including worship services, powwows, weddings and funerals, as well as events at community centres and multipurpose facilities like arenas or town halls.

Fireworks

For those who want to "up the ante" this Canada Day, Candice Mitchell recommends fireworks, as long as people have the space to light them safely.

The director of sales and events for Winnipeg's Archangel Fireworks said the company is encouraging Manitobans to take part in a Canada Day fireworks challenge.

The first step is to get a free licence from the fire department at 200 Scott St. and it's all simple from there, she said.

"It's easy to set up. It's very safe to fire, as long as you're using the proper precautions that are included on all of the pieces, and that you're well within your safety distance," Mitchell said.

Archangel holds safety and awareness courses.

Fireworks go hand-in-hand with celebrating, Mitchell said.

"It brings a celebration to that next level. When you end it with a fireworks show, you go out with a bang, pun intended."

Tips for COVID safety

What Manitobans don't want to see get to the next level is the number of COVID-19 cases in the province.

Kindrachuk said those who are planning to attend smaller Canada Day parties should wash their hands, avoid touching their faces, stay at least six feet away from people and wear a mask.

"That doesn't mean that with a mask, now we can avoid worrying about the spacial difference in between. We're just adding an extra barrier to try and stop the spread," he said.

"We've done great Manitoba, but that doesn't mean that in a few weeks' time or a few months' time that we couldn't be back in the same position we were previously."

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