Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart said on Monday that despite being extremely disappointed in a large and raucous crowd that gathered on the Granville strip on Saturday night, the activity was a low COVID-19 risk.
“Like most residents, I was extremely disappointed by how many people chose to ignore the direction of Dr. Bonnie Henry and other public health officials and irresponsibly party in large groups downtown and elsewhere,” Stewart said.
“We’re still in the middle of a global pandemic, and here in B.C. we’re firmly in the midst of a second wave. Now is not the time to party, it’s time to double down and stay safe.”
Stewart said he reached out to Dr. Patricia Daly, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer, and was told that outdoor gatherings like what occurred on Halloween night carried a low COVID-19 risk.
“More importantly, we need to be careful not to assume any concerns with the safety plans in bars and restaurants just because there were more people outdoors on the street,” he said.
“We both agree that restaurants and bars in Vancouver have done an excellent job implementing COVID safety plans, with few recent cases associated with them compared to earlier in the summer. In fact, Dr. Daly tells me there have been no public exposures in any establishment in Vancouver in over a month. That’s very, very good news.”
All bars and restaurants in B.C. must stop alcohol service by 11 p.m.
Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin said the number of people that showed up on the Granville strip on Saturday night was exceptionally larger than expected and that police officers were called in from all over the city.
However, due to the “hostile demeanour” and size of Saturday’s crowd, police did not issue any “social distancing tickets” or attempt to disperse the crowd.
“It would not have been a safe or an efficient use of the available police resources at the time,” Visintin said.
“Police must consider police and public safety when deciding on possible enforcement options.”
Particularly disturbing, Visintin said, was a police swarming that occurred after a white Range Rover that was driving along Granville Street — with the passengers out of their seats, sitting on the sides of the windows — was stopped.
“When officers conducted the vehicle stop, the passengers got out of the vehicle and swarmed the members,” she said. “Officers requested additional cover officers as the group increased to 30 people and they were becoming increasingly belligerent towards police.”
One man jumped on the hood of a police vehicle in an attempt to provoke the crowd and was eventually arrested. Another police vehicle had its right rear passenger side window smashed.
Visintin said it was a very busy Halloween weekend, with police responding to over 800 calls for service during a 24 hour time period.
Those calls included several serious criminal incidents — including an arson, brawling, assaults and stabbings. Confiscated items including imitation guns, toy guns, knives, numerous cans of bear spray, fireworks, batons and brass knuckles.
Four peoples were taken to hospital with various injuries.
Health minister Adrian Dix said the Granville strip incident was very irritating because it was a visible symbol of people gathering and not following COVID-19 guidelines.
“Obviously, it was there for all to see,” Dix said.
Stewart said Vancouver Coastal Health would closely monitor new cases over the next two weeks to determine if there had been any exposure events linked to Halloween.
with files from Stephanie Ip