The Calgary Stampede says fewer than five of more than 22,000 people who were screened before entering its Nashville North live music venue over the weekend tested positive for COVID-19 — but most provided vaccination proof and were not tested.
Entry to the country music bar is free with admission to the grounds, but unlike the rest of the festival, attendees need to provide proof of vaccination or undergo a rapid test before joining the crowded tent.
Dr. Jia Hu, medical director of the Calgary Stampede, said of the weekend's 22,000 attendees, approximately 70 per cent provided proof they had received at least one COVID-19 vaccination at least two weeks prior.
Of the 30 per cent who didn't have proof — about 6,600 people — the Stampede said fewer than five, or 0.05 per cent, tested positive for COVID-19.
The Stampede did not say if any of those who tested positive were variant cases. It is possible to test positive for COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, although it is rare.
Jim Laurendeau, vice-president of park planning and development, said the venue's vaccination screening program is going "extremely well."
Those who tested positive left the Stampede grounds to head home and contact AHS, Laurendeau said Monday. However, the Stampede did not escort them off the park grounds — they left of their own accord.
"Everyone has been so good-natured through this program, very understanding," Laurendeau said.
The Calgary Stampede is being watched closely across Canada as one of the first large events to take place since the pandemic began. Nearly all public health restrictions in Alberta were removed as of July 1, a week before the festival began.
Stampede addresses fake records, bribery rumours
There have been rumours on social media about people faking vaccination records to enter Nashville North, or bribing those checking records to let them through.
Hu said it's believed the vast majority of people are not faking their immunization records, and of those who did, they were easy cases to catch — like people using a white-out product to alter someone else's document.
And Laurendeau said third-party auditors have been sent in to ensure bribery can't be used to bypass the venue's screening. He said he has 100 per cent confidence the process is secure.
"No one has ever done this before on this scale," Laurendeau said. "We are aware that other events across this country are watching this program to see if it will work for them."
The Stampede is not providing daily attendance numbers for the rest of the festival, but it said attendance so far has been roughly half of what it would be in a normal year.
Laurendeau said Nashville North, in contrast, has seen similar crowds to what it would have accommodated pre-pandemic. The venue is hosting George Canyon, Dean Brody and Brett Kissell, among other artists.
Other safety measures at the Stampede include cutting daily attendance in half, sanitation stations for the public and enhanced cleaning throughout the grounds. Staff and volunteers are required to wear masks and get rapid tests.
There are 624 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 316 of which are in Calgary. Of those Calgary cases, 54 people are in hospital.
The Stampede runs from July 8 to 19.