As Saskatoon festivals gear up for summer, microbiology professor urges caution

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A professor of microbiology recommends that people attending summer festivals in Saskatoon wear masks and make sure they are fully immunized.

Over the next few weeks, three major festivals – the Saskatoon Fringe Festival, the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival and Saskatoon Ex – will kick off in Saskatoon. While all three are mainly outdoors this year and additional security protocols are in place, Professor Dasantila Golemi-Kotra said people should always be careful.

Although being outdoors reduces the risk of the spread of COVID-19, she said the circumstances of the event were important.

“If you’re in a big crowd and you stay in that big crowd for a while, longer than 60 minutes, it doesn’t really matter being outside,” said Golemi-Kotra, professor of microbiology. at York University.

“You are surrounded by people, and especially if these activities involve loud talking and singing, especially at music festivals, being outside doesn’t really make much of a difference.”

Golemi-Kotra said wearing masks during these events and keeping distance from other parties is a smart option, despite the provincial government’s decision to end COVID-19 restrictions on July 11.

She said fully vaccinated people who have regular contact with the elderly should also be careful. While vaccines lower the rate of transmissibility, they do not bring it down to zero.

“I have family and friends who are elderly and I visit them a few days a week,” she said.

“I am aware that even though the person can be vaccinated, they are still old. So, that worries me.”

Golemi-Kotra is also concerned about the vaccination rate of Saskatchewan youth, who may be more likely to visit festivals. As of Thursday, 43% of people aged 18 to 29 had received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

She said an 80% crowd vaccination rate is generally considered safe.

Ensure the security

Meanwhile, the festivals said they were doing their best to keep people safe.

Although the Saskatoon Fringe Festival has two indoor venues this year, masks are mandatory when people are out of place and seats are staggered to keep the parties separate.

The festival also requests information about people for contact tracing and limiting the number of seats sold.

“Fortunately, our venues are quite large,” said Anita Smith, artistic director and executive director of the 25th Street Theater.

“We’ve done the math and are able to accommodate quite a few people while maintaining physical distance.”

The theater has also set up an outdoor venue at WE Graham Park and offers 25 online performances by artists from around the world.

Meanwhile, the Saskatoon Ex has moved all of their traditionally indoor activities, such as the trade show and indoor theater, to the outdoors this year.

“We try to keep it very safe,” said Susan Kuzma, special events manager with Priaireland Park.

“There will be a lot of hand sanitizer stations all over the outdoor space. And we’ll space out some of our concessions and things like that further just to allow for the queues.”

The Saskatoon Fringe Festival will be held from July 29 to August 7, while the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival will be held from August 7 to 15 and the Saskatoon Ex will be held from August 6 to 8 and August 11 to 15.


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