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City cancels public events until June 30

Last Updated Apr 5, 2020 at 8:40 am MDT

Downtown Calgary on Thursday, March 30, 2017. (Photo by Chelsey Harms/660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) In a major blow to summer plans, the City of Calgary has cancelled all public events and festival permits until at least June 30.

The announcement made by Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson Friday afternoon.

In response to the gatherings, even though were limiting them to 15 people, weve had to say all those events are cancelled,Sampson said. Were not doing this to be hard on people, this is about stopping the spread of (COVID-19).

This automatically means there will be no Mothers Day Run, the Sled Island Music Festival is cancelled, Calgary International Beer Festival is called off and numerous other activities will not be happening in 2020.

Neighbour Day, which was established in the wake of the 2013 floods, will also either be cancelled or reimagined as Mayor Naheed Nenshi asked citizens to forward ideas to his office on how it could be marked in a different way while still respecting physical distance guidelines.

And I know that no matter that we probably knew it was coming, it was very hard for us to prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally for that,said Nenshi.

Even if the NHL season were to resume and the CFL season were to go ahead as scheduled, no games could happen in Calgary until at least July 1.

But beyond that, it puts a long list of other major events in serious jeopardy.

Our decision today does not affect Canada Day, it does not affect the Calgary Stampede or the Comic Expo or the Folk Festival,said Nenshi. (But) we may end up extending the date. As we look at the data as they come in, as we understand where we are on the curve of this pandemic, it may well be that we will have to push that ban forward. And of course, if we push that ban forward more than three days then that impacts the Stampede.

Nenshi said officials with the Calgary Stampede are taking the situation extremely seriously and considering all of their options at this point.

A statement from Calgary Stampede sent to 660 NEWS said they have paused all planning since March.

“This is a difficult time, and like all of our community members and partners, the Stampede is focusing on how to navigate through this evolving global concern. Stampede 2020 planning has been on hold since restrictions were placed on mass gatherings. We will continue to be paused until we receive further direction from our government partners.”

Organizers with the Calgary Expo had already postponed the event first scheduled for the end of April to the week following Stampede, but Nenshi admitted that its hard to picture that they can still go ahead as scheduled given the situation.

Even if were in a place where the number of cases are coming down, Im no epidemiologist but I really dont think its wise to say hey everybody, lets have 17,000, 20,000 or 35,000 people all in one space. Thats probably just not wise.

Gatherings of less than 15 people can still happen, as long as theres no high-risk people in that group, but they are still discouraged unless for truly essential activities.

Nenshi said he had a dream the night before that everything would be fine on June 30, and we have a crazy Canada Day party,and all of July is marked as a month of recovery. Then the Stampede and Expo and Folk Fest go off without a hitch, but said that is merely a dream.

Now is that gonna happen? I dont know,Nenshi cautioned. I think its okay to dream. I think its dangerous to put too much stock in our dreams.

Also announced on Friday is the fact all Plus-15s in Calgary will be shut down until further notice. Previously, the walkways had reduced hours and were closed off at 6 p.m.

There will be some adjustments made to schedules for black, blue and green cart pickups for Calgary homeowners as well.

More information on supports for individuals, businesses and other partners or stakeholders about addressing the COVID-19 pandemic is also being made available on the citys website.

Nenshi addressed the financial impact to the city during the press conference, as he said the city is losing around $15 million per week due to the pandemic. More details will be provided next week on the full picture, and he is hopeful that more support will be coming from higher levels of government.

Sampson spoke a bit about people wearing face masks when venturing outside the home, deferring to advice from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw who has said they are not necessary in most cases.

Also, do not flush sanitizing wipes down the toilet because they do not break down and can end up clogging the sanitation system, costing the city even more money.

Finally, a message was passed along about physical distancing as people are reminded to keep their space between each other when going outside and the city will be closing off some more roads over the weekend to help pedestrians spread out.