By Sabrina Almeida
The Doug Ford government announced this week that capacity restrictions in food and drink establishments with dance facilities (like wedding reception venues) will continue. While this might disappoint those who are planning to get married during the holiday season or immediate future, it’s a common sense move aimed at preventing community spread.
Our news publication receives notices of COVID-19 exposure at wedding receptions from Peel Public Health every week. This goes to show that the risk of infections at these types of events is real and not fabricated or blown out of proportion.
Event space owners and organizers might dig out stats to demonstrate infection rates are higher in other settings (factories and warehouses being some of the main culprits) but we’re not going to get into the better-or-worse scenario. For one, it doesn’t matter whether an individual was infected at a high or low risk setting – the outcome is the same. To me, the situation is similar to winning the lottery. The more you play, the higher the chances of a positive outcome. Which in this case is not a good thing!
I’m also less inclined to side with this statistical argument based on my own experience at a wedding reception and anecdotal evidence courtesy my social circle.
What I saw at the wedding celebration I attended led me to conclude that these events can be a petri dish for the coronavirus to spread. (Just like cruise ships.) There’s no denying that the risk increases when alcohol flows and guests crowd the dance floor.
I attended an outdoor wedding reception in June when restrictions were just starting to be eased. The bride and groom were ecstatic to be allowed to have a hundred people (including the musicians and servers) when compared to the twelve mandated earlier. I too was happy for them. But common sense and the fear of Covid quickly disappeared when the music started. The dance floor was not big enough to accommodate 80 guests in normal circumstances. So, maintaining any kind of social distancing was certainly not possible. A bylaw enforcement officer who responded to a noise complaint by nearby residents didn’t seem to think anything was amiss either.
I’ve heard a similar scene plays out at many South Asian weddings. Most of us are guilty of the misconception that relatives and friends are Covid-proof. That’s what causes people to abandon all caution. While it is true that individuals don’t knowingly infect each other, that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen.
Friends who have attended wedding receptions in the past two to three months shared these observations. One of them was particularly upset by the callousness on the part of the banquet hall as well as the guests because he had vulnerable family members at home. He said no one checked his vaccine credentials when he arrived at the event, many guests didn’t have their masks on when they left their seats and literally piled on top of one another on the dance floor.
While the banquet hall managers and the wedding party organizers abided by the capacity limits, all other public health measures were dispensed with as the evening wore on. This is not a one-off case, friends say.
There’s no denying that constantly reminding your guests to mask up and maintain social distancing is awkward and a mood dampener. But it’s necessary to keep ourselves and all our near and dear ones Covid-free!
Shouldn’t it also be enforced by the establishment? If not for the right reasons, then at least for the fear of being heavily fined and shut down!!!
No doubt these businesses have suffered heavily during the pandemic but ignoring public health and safety measures could create a situation where lockdowns are reimposed. And that wouldn’t help anyone!