Don't gather over Easter long weekend, officials plead

Ottawa has seen spikes in COVID-19 cases after long weekends in the past, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, said virologist Earl Brown.

Ottawa sees spikes after long weekends and holidays, says virologist

A pastor at St. Mary's Parish Catholic church in Ottawa celebrates the Eucharist during Easter Sunday mass live on YouTube on April 12, 2020. Officials are urging people to not gather during the Easter long weekend this year. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Officials in Ottawa are worried about people gathering over the Easter long weekend as cases continue to rise in the city. 

Ottawa has seen spikes in cases after long weekends in the past, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, said virologist Earl Brown. 

"Historically, we see when we do congregate for our festive events, we do get more cases," he said.

Mayor Jim Watson also raised this concern on Friday, saying there's been an unfortunate pattern after holidays. 

"We have to continue to be vigilant," he said. "Far too many people have lost their lives and far too many people have contracted COVID-19, and a lot of that is a result of people having celebrations with their family and extended family coming into their homes," said Watson.

We don't want to do things that are unsafe.- Anthony Bailey, Parkdale United Church minister

Brown encouraged people to find ways of seeing those outside their household safely by meeting outdoors and continuing to use precautions like masking and keeping appropriate physical distancing. 

But he did warn that eating, even outdoors, is considered risky behaviour. 

"We're in a stage of increasing spread of the COVID-19 virus so it's time for increased caution not increased interactions," said Brown.

WATCH | Virologist warn variants makes it even more necessary to avoid gatherings:

Gathering for Easter a risky decision due to virus variants, higher case numbers, virologist says

2 months ago
Earl Brown, virology professor at the University of Ottawa, says the threat of virus variants makes it even more necessary to avoid gathering with friends and family over the Easter weekend. 1:07

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, said last week that despite unclear guidance from the province people shouldn't eat on patios with those who are not in their household. 

"This new variant transmits better than previously," said Brown. "Dr. Etches is being cautious and prudent in saying you really need to be careful about being in the outdoors as well, even patios," he said.   

Some churches moving services online

Ottawa is currently in the red zone on the province's colour-coded pandemic scale, which means religious services can have a 30 per cent capacity indoors and a total of 100 people outdoors. Despite this, some churches in the city have chosen to hold virtual services only. 

Parkdale United Church head minister Anthony Bailey said he hoped to hold Easter Sunday service in person, but when cases began rising, the church decided to move everything online. 

WATCH | Foiled hopes for a 2021 in-person Easter service:

Ottawa church to hold virtual Easter services despite hope of in-person worship

CBC News Ottawa

2 months ago
Anthony Bailey, minister at Parkdale United Church, says he had hoped to be able to hold in-person Easter services but ultimately decided on virtual proceedings due to rising case numbers. 0:59

"As we saw us go into the red zone ... and [with] the variants, there's sufficient concern that we don't want to do things that are unsafe," Bailey said.

Bailey said not being able to gather for festivities this year has been hard on his congregation, especially in terms of mental health. 

"It has been and continues to be very difficult because much of our family life and our religious life is meant to be face-to-face," he said.

Bailey said the congregation has tried innovative ways of connecting, including having seniors connect to services over the phone if they aren't as technologically savvy and singing happy birthday for people from a safe distance. 

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