Toronto’s mayor says he hopes “the days of warning are over” after officers broke up a large Halloween party over the weekend allegedly organized by anti-maskers.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday afternoon, head of emergency management Matthew Pegg confirmed that officers were called to a Halloween gathering in which 60 to 70 people were in attendance.
Police said that an investigation into the gathering led them to believe it was organized by anti-maskers.
“This event was responded to and dealt with quickly,” Pegg said. “It is my understanding that charges were laid against one of the organizers of this event and that this matter remains under investigation.”
No further information was provided about the charge the organizer of the party is facing.
In September, the province reduced gathering limits to 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the second wave of the pandemic.
Pegg said that the city received 33 complaints over the Halloween weekend regarding large gatherings, but only two were considered legitimate and warranted tickets.
“While emergency response call volumes are always higher than normal on Halloween night, I’m pleased to report that we did not experience abnormal increases over the course of Halloween 2020.”
“Thank you Toronto for being so considerate.”
At the same time, Mayor John Tory is hoping that the city will not have to issue as many warnings about large gatherings in the futures.
“I’m hoping the day will come—because I don’t control law enforcement—that the days of warnings are over and that people are going to be, if they’re found in these places when they shouldn’t be or in circumstances where they shouldn’t be or operating in a way that is contrary to these order that are meant to allow doors to be open safely, then there’s going to be a price to pay for that.”
At the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto enforcement officers relied heavily on education and awareness rather than fines and charges for disobeying public safety rules.
One 10-person gathering led to 40 COVID-19 cases in nine days
Toronto’s top doctor said that while the city appears to have “adapted successfully” to Halloween this year, with more holidays coming up in the next two months, it’s important to remember there is a risk of infection or transmission with every gathering.
“We’ve reached a point in the year where we must think about how fundamentally difficult it is to accept there is risk, even danger, in events where we come together for the pleasure of each other’s company,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said.
“The idea defies what we take for granted, that celebration is the time when we put aside the worries of everyday life, to take a little time to just relax and enjoy.”
De Villa cited numerous examples of gatherings that have turned into super-spreader events, including a bachelor party of 13 people where one participant had a mild headache and a runny nose, which he attributed to seasonal allergies.
“It turned out to be COVID-19,” de Villa said. “As a result of this evening, three people tested positive for the virus. But the event generated 16 high-risk contacts and more than 120 lower-risk contacts.”
A gathering of 10 friends at a cottage in which one person developed cold-like symptoms led to 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in nine days, de Villa added, and a September barbecue of 40 people led to 27 confirmed cases of the disease.
“And in this instance, because children were involved, 105 high-risk contacts through school, all of them had to self-isolate for 14 days.”
“As I’ve said before, you don’t get COVID-19 from a place, you get COVID-19 from another person.”