WINNIPEG — Wednesday was an emotional day for Bodhan Wowczuk and Joseph Fourre. They’re each planning a wedding, which happens to be on the same weekend in August, and they were both hoping to be able to increase their guest list.
Under the new public health orders coming into effect Saturday in Manitoba, outdoor weddings and funerals may include up to 150 participants. Indoors, however, weddings and funerals are only allowed 25 people. These capacity changes are in addition to photographers and officiants.
Both men, Fourre a groom-to-be and Wowczuk a father-of-the-bride-to-be, a took issue with the upcoming August 5 Blue Bombers game, which is allowed to happen at 100-per cent capacity because the crowd is required to be fully vaccinated.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bombers. It just didn’t seem right that I could go sit with 30,000 strangers, scream, eat hot dogs, drink beer and celebrate and yet I couldn’t celebrate an important day in our lives with our close family and friends,” said Fourre.
“There’s no social distancing, there will be no mask wearing, maybe the odd person,” said Wowczuk about the Bombers game. “So it just doesn’t make sense why you can’t have fully vaccinated people at a wedding.”
A provincial spokesperson told CTV News Thursday that the revised public health orders announced July 14 provide a reasonable and appropriate next step in Manitobans reopening process.
“As more and more Manitobans become vaccinated, it allows for the loosening of public health restrictions. However, COVID-19 continues to circulate in the province and challenge our hospital and ICU capacity. A phased reopening is a safe reopening strategy, one we have advocated throughout the pandemic,” reads the written statement.
“Weddings and funerals have shown to be locations with significant risk of transmission and the public health orders reflect that risk,” the provincial response goes onto say.
Wowczuk wonders what the risk is if everyone at his daughter’s wedding is vaccinated.
“The next go around, hopefully they will do something because right now it seems like the wedding and funerals – they’re getting targeted.”
Fourre would like to instead see wedding capacity to be based on the size of the venue instead of limiting it across the board.
Event planner Amanda Douglas said that larger capacity private events are doable, but what is needed is a more structured plan and guidance from public health on how to do these events in a safe way.
“Until there is some sort of regulation around that I can understand why they are keeping private property numbers down,” Douglas said. “Is it frustrating? Of course. We are frustrated, all my clients are frustrated, vendors are frustrated. But what we want is some sort of system.”
Donna Olson, the Vice President of the Manitoba Funeral Service Association (MFSA), tells CTV News members were disheartened and very disappointed to learn that the impending changes to funeral services starting on Saturday seemed to have moved the numbers so minimally.
She explained that funeral homes have pivoted and adapted many times throughout the pandemic, and they can do it again with vaccination.
“We’ve collected and maintained tracing lists, screened guests upon arrival, locked doors, ensured social distancing rules are followed, but we are not being given the opportunity to collect proof of a vaccination like restaurants, casinos, and museums,” she wrote in an email to CTV News.
Olson added the MFSA president has reached out to Public Health to discuss a safe reopening of funeral services in the province, but this has not been met with any response.
“The face-to-face support of family and friends is one of the most basic human interactions that a grieving person needs to heal. A livestream funeral service does not take the place of grieving with your loved ones, even at five to ten and now 25 people.
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