Recent COVID-19 exposures in Ottawa at live shows

·2 min read
Two recent COVID-19 exposures in Ottawa were concerts at the Bronson Centre, something that executive director Corey Mayville says isn't that surprising. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)
Two recent COVID-19 exposures in Ottawa were concerts at the Bronson Centre, something that executive director Corey Mayville says isn't that surprising. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)

A number of Ottawa's recent COVID-19 exposures are originating in places where people have gathered for live concerts, public health officials say.

According to a recently launched website in which Ottawa Public Health discloses instances of COVID-19 community exposures, three could be traced back to live musical performances.

"In hindsight, I'm not terribly surprised, given the big numbers," said Corey Mayville, executive director of the Bronson Centre, a music venue in central Ottawa.

OPH pointed to two concerts at the Bronson Centre on Dec. 2 and Dec. 7.

Mayville insisted concerts at the Bronson Centre have been run safely and strictly, with signs in place, masking enforced and vaccination status checked at the door.

CBC News spoke with attendees of the Dec. 2 concert by the band Dwayne Gretzky, however, who said masking by concertgoers was lax and that staff didn't seem to be enforcing a rule requiring people to cover their faces except when drinking.

"Messaging has been given to everybody, so I think we have to be that much more vigilant," Mayville said.

Lisa Zbitnow, the CEO of Phoenix Concert Theatre, which holds the lease for the Bronson Centre performance space, declined requests for interviews.

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

Rules change Saturday

OPH is also investigating COVID-19 exposures tied to a Dec. 5 performance of Nutcracker at the National Arts Centre (NAC).

NAC spokesperson Annabelle Cloutier said staff watch closely for COVID-19 rule infractions — including people who use the glass of wine in their hand as an excuse to keep their masks lowered right to the last drop.

"We're not tolerating when this happens," said Cloutier.

New provincial rules that go into effect Saturday will also require venues that normally hold 1,000 people or more to limit capacity to 50 per cent — and that includes the NAC's large Southam Hall, which can seat about 2,000.

Cloutier said most scheduled shows will still go ahead. Two holiday-themed concerts have been cancelled, however, and any future cancellations will be communicated with ticket holders directly, she said.

Since the NAC's calendar is blank from Dec. 22 until early January, Cloutier hoped the increasing case counts won't affect many more performances.

Jamie Kwong, executive director of the Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, said she hoped the smaller venues where her members typically perform won't be affected by the new capacity rules

She too acknowledged the difficulty of enforcing masking while people are midway through a beverage.

"I think we need presenters, hosts of shows, to keep reminding people and musicians can take a role in that reminding people to keep their masks on," she said.

"It's easy to forget."

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