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The risk of COVID-19 transmission at outdoor events this summer

Last Updated May 22, 2021 at 10:20 am MDT

CALGARY — After a COVID-19 case is directly linked to an anti-lockdown rodeo near Bowden, doctors say there’s a risk of transmission, even when you’re outside.

“It’s a hard choice, but we’re in a situation in which absolutely no one wants to go through a fourth wave,” said Dr. James Talbot, co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association COVID Committee.

The “No More Lockdowns” rodeo was illegal – but thousands took part. And even if your risk goes down outdoors – it goes up again the more people you interact with.

“For instance, did you shake hands with people that you met at the rodeo? Did you use a common bathroom? Did you wash your hands? And after you washed your hands did you open the door to get out of the bathroom?”

RELATED: Attendee of ‘No More Lockdowns’ rodeo tests positive for COVID-19

And while Albertans are gearing up for the Stampede this year, in other provinces, and around the world, governments are taking a hard look at whether or not to shut down outdoor events.

Toronto for example, cancelled the Canadian National Exhibition this week, along with all other major outdoor festivals scheduled for Summer 2021.

The same case happening on the west coast, with the PNE in Vancouver also being cancelled.

“The Stampede, or events like that, like the ones you just mentioned, we know are potential super-spreader events.”

So far, the Tokyo Olympics are set to go ahead, despite a state of emergency being declared for most of the country.

RELATED: Canadians in Japan say the Olympics should be cancelled

“I can say it’s now clearer than ever that these games will be safe for everyone participating, and importantly, safe for the people of Japan,” said John Coates, the vice president of the International Olympic Committee.

Even though the Stampede is scheduled to happen – it’s going to look very different.

In a statement, the Calgary Stampede told CityNews that safety is the top priority.

“Significant operational changes are being made to accommodate for physical distancing and the elimination of high-traffic areas. Specific experiences, activities and operations will continue to flex and adapt based on the guidance provided and the evolving situation. Simply put, if an experience is determined to be unsafe, it won’t happen.”

And Talbot says there are measures that can help reduce risk, nothing can erase it altogether. With no restrictions on outdoor events, he says people coming from various parts of the province, mixing, socializing, drinking – even outdoors, can create big problems.

“Once you’ve done that mixing and transmitting, people leave the event and go back to their hometowns. That’s the very definition of a superspreader event – even though many of the activities are held outdoors.”