Many recent COVID-19 cases have been linked to social gatherings and parties, often involving young people.
Jacques Martiquet, 24, however, says social experiences are necessary, especially for young people and there are ways it can be done safely.
Martiquet is a self-proclaimed party expert and holds the title of chief celebration scientist at Vyve, a company that helps organizations plan drug-and-alcohol-free social events.
Vyve has developed its own safe party plan — a plan that calls for gatherings but with plenty of social distancing and handwashing, limited numbers and no risky behaviours like sharing food and drinks.
"We like to call it social dis-dancing," Martiquet said. "We like to promote the message that you can still engage, you can still share joy with one another while social distancing."
Martiquet said maintaining social connections during the pandemic is essential for mental well-being.
His company tried to craft Zoom dance parties for companies at first, but found they just didn't stack up to the real thing.
So they tried something different: physically distanced bike rides, hikes and other activities with small numbers of attendees where social connection can be had while obeying health guidelines.
There's even a "safety dance marshal," he said, in bright reflective clothes and wielding a whistle to make sure distancing rules are followed.
"We're creating this positive emotion that actually boosts compliance," Martiquet said. "So we like to say we're an unofficial task force for promoting socially distant fun."
There are no alcohol or drugs allowed at Vyve's events. The venue is always outdoors, at a beach or park. Invites and numbers are controlled.
"This is not the Third Beach drum circle where it's complete mayhem," Martiquet said.
Health officials have generally discouraged large gatherings but Martiquet feels telling people to stay at home all the time will lead to negative consequences over the duration of the pandemic, especially when it comes to mental health.
Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, deputy chief medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health, said there have indeed been many cases recently of young people catching COVID-19 and large parties are a major driver of that.
That said, he agrees with many of Martiquet's precautions for hosting parties responsibly: hosting outside events, controlling numbers, avoiding food sharing and avoiding drugs and alcohol are all advisable.
"People like getting together with other people," Lysyshyn said. "We want to find the ways to do that."
Lysyshyn said he believes experienced event planners can be counted on to plan events safely.
People without that experience can do it too, he said, if they follow public health guidelines. Not just some of them, he added: all of them.
"If you really do all those things, then yeah, we think you can have safe events," he said. "That's why we put those rules out there."