Wedding ceremony in Cambridge with “100-200” visitors and 11 non-provincial COVID-19 circumstances

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Sri Guru Singh Sabha Cambridge.

CAMBRIDGE – Ontario weddings attract more people than you might have believed.

Hundreds have gathered – legally – at large indoor venues across the province, where capacity is now determined by percentage rather than a hard cap.

At least one of these major weddings has been linked to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Cambridge City Bylaws received a complaint on February 27 about a gathering at a wedding in Sri Guru Singh Sabha Cambridge.

The officers arriving on site found that there were between “100 and 200 people” inside.

No charges were brought.

Under the province’s response framework for red categories, religious services such as weddings and funerals are allowed to have 30 percent capacity indoors.

The Cambridge Temple has a capacity of 700 people, which means that under current provincial guidelines, wedding ceremonies of 210 attendees can be held as long as adequate social distancing can be maintained.

Outdoor weddings – which have been highlighted as a safer option to limit the spread of COVID-19 – have a hard capacity of 100 people.

A week after February 27, the Region of Waterloo Public Health announced that there was an outbreak related to a wedding at a local place of worship. The number of cases has now risen to 11 confirmed cases – six in the region and five in other public health jurisdictions.

A public health investigation into the wedding found that there was an “in-frame” transmission, said Rabia Bana, Associate Medical Officer of Health, and all high-risk contacts have now been contacted individually.

“There are higher numbers of contacts, partly due to both the nature of the exposure and our improved case and contact management process for all positive cases,” she said.

Cambridge Temple Vice President Pammi Soomal confirmed this week that the outbreak is related to the February 27 wedding. She said the temple worked with public health to track down anyone it might have had contact with in the wedding attendees.

The temple has strict guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing – both of which are mandatory as part of the framework to allow for 30 percent capacity.

And Cambridge statute officials who arrived at the temple said they had found no violations of provincial order, including physical distancing and wearing of masks.

There has been no other spread of COVID-19 in the temple since the wedding, Soomal said.

“This outbreak made us even more aware of the importance of keeping our vigil against anyone who enters the temple,” she said. “No person or family should receive special treatment – our security protocols apply to everyone who enters the building and will continue to do so.”

Both the World Health Organization and the Canadian Public Health Department have recognized the danger that large indoor gatherings can pose to communities.

The Canadian health agency has now explicitly recognized the risk of the spread of COVID-19 from aerosols and the potential hazard to indoor spaces without advanced ventilation systems.

A January report advised Canadians to avoid enclosed spaces and, if possible, interact with others outside.

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In the summer of 2020, the Ontario government set a 50-person capacity limit for indoor services at places of worship.

A document released in August by the Region of Waterloo Public Health states that the province “limits gatherings for places of worship to a maximum of 50 people indoors and a maximum of 100 people outdoors.”

However, the latest provincial framework does not set universal capacity limits for any of the colored measures outside of gray, which sets the indoor capacity at 10 people. Regions in the colors red, orange, yellow and green allow 30 percent of the total capacity for weddings, funerals and church services.

In neighboring Guelph, for example, the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate has been offering wedding services since her return to red measure in February.

Due to its capacity, wedding parties could invite up to 220 people to the ceremonies.

The same rule applies to all wedding venues currently operating in the Waterloo area or any other region in the province outside the gray area.

The Ontario Department of Health has not responded to questions about why it switched to a percentage capacity model.

As the introduction of vaccination in the province is still in its infancy, experts are reluctant to advise wedding couples to use the current capacity regulations.

Large gatherings are risky, said University of Toronto epidemiologist Colin Furness, regardless of the size of the room.

“There’s a problem with a percentage capacity rule with no cap,” he said. “So I don’t just want to see an absolute number limit – regardless of capacity – I want that limit to be low for events where we know there will be close contact.”

These types of events are particularly precarious because people drink alcohol a lot, which can lead them to take risks.

“Weddings are high on the list of up-close contact events.”