Dozens of cases in Alberta and British Columbia have been linked to a faith-based event in Deadwood, Alta.
So far, at least 15 cases have been identified in Alberta and 17 in British Columbia in connection to the religious event It Is Time Canada, which was held between July 31-Aug 2.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer, said that 200-300 people attended the event, and that health officials from both provinces are now working together as part of contact tracing efforts. They expected more cases to arise in the upcoming days.
“It’s as a good reminder that identified cases often are the outcome of activities that happened up to several weeks before the gathering resulted,” said Hinshaw, as she announced 89 new COVID-19 patients in Alberta on Tuesday.
“This is a stark reminder that coming together in large gatherings risks sharing more than fellowship. It risks sharing the COVID-19 virus.”
On Monday, B.C.’s Northern Health issued a public exposure alert for northeast B.C. because of the amount of cases that arose from It Is Time Canada. Of the province’s 17 cases, 12 are attendees, while the other five are secondary cases.
B.C. health officials have since asked all attendees to self-isolate for 14 days.
It’s unclear how many of Alberta’s 15 cases involve attendees of the prayer event. But Hinshaw is asking all those who attended, or anyone who’s been in close contact with an attendee, to immediately organize a COVID-19 test and monitor for symptoms.
In a Facebook video on Aug. 12, event organizer Chris Lindberg announced that he has been diagnosed with COVID-19, along with other friends who attended the event, but “we don’t want to make a big deal about that.”
“Actually, COVID is quite good. We’ve been working,” said Lindberg. “Getting Farm equipment ready. Really we haven’t had a day off. We’ve been pushing through. If this is COVID, I guess I have it. I know other people have different reactions.”
A few days earlier, Lindberg initially announced that a “few people” were diagnosed, but they did not have symptoms at the event. Before It Is Time Canada took place, Lindberg expressed that he wasn’t sure if the event should go on, but he eventually said in a Facebook video that the “the Lord has spoken to me,” and that “I know that God will protect us and use us to shake this nation.”
The Facebook videos have since been made unavailable to the public, while Lindberg did not respond to Yahoo News Canada in time for publication.
According to the Toronto Star’s Vancouver Bureau, Lindberg created an action plan that capped the event attendance at 100 people. In Alberta, there’s a maximum of 200 people who can attend an audience-type community outdoor event, while there is no cap on the number of people who can attend worship gatherings, just as long as there are public health measures in place.
Attendees who spoke with the Toronto Star’s Vancouver Bureau applauded event organizers for what they tried to do to maintain physical distancing restrictions.
“I know that God will protect us and use us to shake this nation”
Along with the cases identified in connection to the event, Hinshaw on Tuesday said that there are now 15 cases linked to the Bible Pentecostal Church in Edmonton, despite all precautions being taken during in-person services.
Hinshaw is urging anyone who attended the church between July 26 and Aug. 12, or anyone who was a close contact of someone who attended, to get tested and monitor for symptoms.
On Tuesday, Hinshaw also announced one new fatality in the province, which raises its COVID-19-related death toll to 225.
Throughout the province, there are now 1,169 active cases of COVID-19. The Calgary zone has 295 of those patients, while the Edmonton zone has 636.
A day earlier, Edmonton was put under the province’s “watch” category, meaning there are at least 50 cases per 100,000 residents. Hinshaw said they’re seeing a mixed pattern in terms of what’s led to the recent spike in the city. Seventy per cent of the cases are among people under 40 years old, while many are linked to household transmission and social gatherings.
There are also two parties in Edmonton that have been linked to 26 and 17 cases, respectively, which Hinshaw says serves as a reminder about the dangers associated with indoor gatherings at this point of the pandemic.