Large crowd, lack of physical distancing at Stanley Park drum circle draws criticism
VANCOUVER -- As B.C. grapples with an uptick in COVID-19 cases, video taken at a drum circle in Stanley Park Tuesday night is raising concern about whether people are heeding the advice of public health officials.
Videos taken by multiple people from several angles show a large crowd with well over 50 people gathered at Vancouver's Third Beach Tuesday evening for a weekly drumming event, with many dancing closely without masks on.
West End resident Ryan Schaap noticed the group while passing through the area, and described the behaviour as "reckless."
"They were elbow to elbow," Schaap said. "You hope that everybody's social distancing and being respectful but it was the opposite – it was people dancing and singing and playing drums more or less on top of each other."
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A video taken by a jogger shows the crowd spilling from the beach and onto the seawall, making it difficult to get by.
Gatherings with over 50 people are still banned in B.C., even if they are outdoors, in an effort to prevent further transmission of the virus.
The drum circle crowd comes just days after Dr. Bonnie Henry urged people to be responsible with social events, noting that many of the new positive cases in B.C. are among people in their 20s and 30s.
At her Wednesday afternoon briefing, Henry addressed drum circle regulars who have been attending the weekly gathering for years, and offered a gentle reminder that this year is different.
"Being outside means it's less risky, but it's not zero risk," Henry said. "We are appealing to people again to remember that and to keep your group small, stay a distance from other small groups, and then you can enjoy the beaches, you can enjoy the sunsets and the water around B.C."
Vancouver police say officers regularly monitor the drum circle, but didn’t indicate if any complaints were made Tuesday night.
“As it has been since the pandemic started, our officers are not reprimanding people for not complying with social distancing measures, however, we will continue to educate when we see fit,” Const. Tania Visintin said in an email to CTV News.
In an emailed statement, the Vancouver Park Board said the event is "unsanctioned and unpermitted."
"The park board does not have an ability to enforce any physical distancing recommendations, as that falls under the purview of the province of British Columbia," the statement said.
"We are concerned about the potential risk to individuals who participated, particularly considering the increase in positive COVID-19 cases over the past week."
The park board said it's had awareness signage promoting physical distancing across its beaches and green spaces since mid-March.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Shannon Paterson