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Large-scale public events remain banned in Banff to fight COVID-19

"We are still urged to not have large-scale public events, and the main reason for that is the inability to do contact tracing without registration, or some form of identification of individuals," said Jason Darrah, director of communications for the Town of Banff.
Banff Town Hall 2
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – A local musician wanting to see outdoor music events back in the community fears the municipality’s current ban on large-scale events to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will lead to backcountry and indoor house parties.

Jeffrey Duncan was before Banff town council on Monday (July 13), asking elected officials to loosen the rules and help come up with a good location for an outdoor music event other than Central Park.

“A lot of musicians in town felt like they’ve just been getting crushed under the coronavirus lockdown and they’re just looking for a place to move kind of the party to,” Duncan said.

“[If we] could just have a place where people can blow off their steam now, do it in a controlled way, so that it doesn’t turn into house parties and things of that kind of nature.”

Events in Banff open to or intended to attract the general public and take place in or on publicly owned facilities or land require a permit. Applications must be submitted to the Town of Banff no less than three months in advance of the event date.

Jason Darrah, the Town of Banff’s director of communications, said the municipality is still not accepting any applications for events, including large-scale events for the summer to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

As the Alberta relaunch has progressed to a point where the number of people allowed to join together in gatherings has increased to 200 people outside, he said it may seem like it is a time to open up events – but it’s not.

“Through consultation with Alberta Health Service… we are still urged to not have large-scale public events, and the main reason for that is the inability to do contact tracing without registration, or some form of identification of individuals,” Darrah said.

“There may be private events where people are invited and everybody is known, and they have all the names, it is easier to do contact tracing in the event that someone involved would be tested positive for that situation.”

As of Monday (July 20), Banff has recorded 13 positive cases since the pandemic hit Alberta in mid-March. Five people have recovered, and number of confirmed positive cases jumped to eight over the weekend.

Province-wide, there were 368 additional cases since Friday (July 17), bringing the number of total active cases to 1,109. In total, 8,308 Albertans have now recovered from COVID-19. Currently, there are 86 people in hospital, 17 of whom are in intensive care. The number of deaths sits at 170. 

Darrah said every type of event application would be evaluated, but the municipality is maintaining its position of avoiding large-scale public events without registration as recommended by AHS.

“Each case is a little different in the risk value for perhaps people being within two metres distance and so on and so forth,” he said.

“Gatherings and certain types of events with performances, and people dancing and singing, are identified as a higher risk.”

Though council had no debate and made no decisions following Darrah's information, Councillor Peter Poole told Duncan he was grateful that he brought his request and concerns to council’s attention.

But, he also indicated it would be helpful if Duncan could inform the Town of any house parties with large numbers of people that he knew about.

“Thank you, Mr. Duncan, for expressing the concerns of behalf of the many musicians in this town … people love the live music and DJ music scene that we have active in this town,” he said.

“It will be helpful for from time-to-time when you want to make us aware, or make administration aware, if you think there may be some people as you describe in house parties blowing off some steam, who you might think we ought to know about.”

In a delegation note to council as part of the agenda package, Duncan said he has applied for permits for outdoor music events year-after-year – but it goes nowhere.

“This result is very illegal and dangerous behaviour like backcountry parties and gutting houses into temporary venues with zero medical support if something ever went wrong,” he wrote.

“Emergency services have to be left in the dark or we get busted up by the police. Trust with the police is terrible because they do nothing to help us. They simply shut down any bit of fun and hand out fines.”


About the Author: Cathy Ellis

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