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COVID-19

Coronavirus invasion of major league baseball was bound to happen sooner or later

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Well, we knew something like this coronavirus invasion of major league baseball was bound to happen sooner or later. Now, all we can do is hope that other sports organizations do not go through similar messes.

But don’t bet against it happening somewhere else, and soon.

My guess from the beginning was that baseball would be first on the list of pending and potential disasters. Operating without the semblance of a safety “bubble” was accurately described as  either arrogant or foolhardy — of course all players would avoid mingling in the public or attending places where individuals sing or dance or cavort in nameless ways.

Hockey, so far, owns the biggest safety record: thousands of tests and no positive findings. In addition, few of the NHL’s players have openly elected to step away from the test, quarantine and isolate-when-necessary philosophy introduced by commissioner Gary Bettman, whose political instincts have ranked him among the least popular and most effective leaders in the sport’s history.

In a Bettman-directed universe, favoured hockey stories would all be politically correct, linked only to hard-fought victories, lovable team pets, young children and well-publicized contributions to charity by league, franchise or a smiling individual.

Today, it is obviously unfair to take offence at his quiet-at-all-cost stance. As long as occasional players choose to come forward when COVID-19 affects them, much of the media, and therefore most of the dedicated, banner-waving outsiders will be content with whatever information becomes public.

No such refuge is possible for baseball, despite the good fortune provided when Canadian decision-makers ruled against the possibility that U.S teams could cross a mostly-locked border and fly freely through our land for as long as necessary to complete a 60-game season and possible playoff games. Try to imagine the fuss that would be brewing at this moment if anyone who had been within reach of the Miami Marlins was scheduled to land at Pearson Airport in Toronto any time in the near future!

On Tuesday, it was reported that four more Marlins had been found with the infection, bringing the team total to 17; two coaches and 11 players were infected previously. At least half-a-dozen games have been cancelled or postponed, with more schedule changes expected.

Predictably, players who first objected to the baseball plan to operate without clear protection spoke out quickly. Los Angeles Dodgers lefthander David Price was among the first to remove himself from the season.

“Now we’ll really get to see if baseball is going to put players’ health first,” he said. “Part of the reason I’m at home right now is because players’ health hasn’t been put first.”

Washington manager Dave Martinez, whose Nationals are in a four-game home-and-home series with the Toronto Blue Jays, also commented: “My level of concern has gone from an eight to about a 12. I’m going to be honest with you: I’m scared.”

“Cheer up, things could be worse.” So, we cheered up. Things got worse.

COVID-19

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sept. 24

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The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:41 a.m. EDT on Sept. 24, 2020:

There are 148,162 confirmed cases in Canada.

_ Quebec: 69,088 confirmed (including 5,809 deaths, 59,686 resolved)

_ Ontario: 48,496 confirmed (including 2,836 deaths, 41,886 resolved)

_ Alberta: 17,032 confirmed (including 260 deaths, 15,252 resolved)

_ British Columbia: 8,395 confirmed (including 227 deaths, 6,769 resolved)

_ Saskatchewan: 1,830 confirmed (including 24 deaths, 1,673 resolved)

_ Manitoba: 1,674 confirmed (including 18 deaths, 1,238 resolved)

_ Nova Scotia: 1,087 confirmed (including 65 deaths, 1,021 resolved)

_ Newfoundland and Labrador: 272 confirmed (including 3 deaths, 267 resolved)

_ New Brunswick: 197 confirmed (including 2 deaths, 191 resolved)

_ Prince Edward Island: 58 confirmed (including 57 resolved)

_ Yukon: 15 confirmed (including 15 resolved)

_ Repatriated Canadians: 13 confirmed (including 13 resolved)

_ Northwest Territories: 5 confirmed (including 5 resolved)

_ Nunavut: No confirmed cases

_ Total: 148,162 (0 presumptive, 148,162 confirmed including 9,244 deaths, 128,073 resolved)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Your event has been CANCELLED

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Your Event Has Been Cancelled

By Ilan Cooley

The live event industry is in serious trouble. It was the first sector to go dark due to the pandemic, and it is expected to be the last to be allowed back to work.

The people behind the scenes of your favourite events are the mavericks and risk takers you likely don’t know about. They create the events that make you smile until your face hurts, cheer until you lose your voice, and dance until you can’t stand up. They make the magic that fills your social feeds, and the moments that live in your memories.

You may have gotten an email saying “your event has been cancelled” – they lost their livelihood.

“People don’t understand how bullseye targeted this virus was at our industry,” says Jon Beckett, owner of Production World. “It was a 100% bullseye. You couldn’t hit it more dead centre. It’s not like it hurt us – it took it away. People don’t understand that until you talk to them about your industry.”

Production World Staff

Beckett’s company used to employ 50 people. Having lost more than 200 events so far, they have laid off 35 people. Their 25,000 square foot warehouse contains almost seven million dollars worth of staging, lighting and other production equipment.

“We have to house that inventory,” he says. “It is not like we can sell it.”

Similarly, Fort Saskatchewan based Superior Show Service has two separate warehouses full of rental items nobody currently needs, plus tax bills and insurance due. As a 35-year-old family-run event rental company, they cater to tradeshows and large events. Some of the 35 staff they laid off in March have been hired back after accessing relief programs, but with more than 80 events already cancelled, owner Chris Sisson worries about the future.

“It feels like the carpet kicked out from under you,” he says. “I’ve always been able to provide for a great number of families, not just my own, and today I have no idea how to provide for my own. I have been in this industry my entire life, and now I have no idea what to do. It is truly humbling and dumbfounding.”

Chris Sisson of Superior Show Service

Event promoter Mike Andersson prefers not to dwell on what has been lost, instead focusing on building something consumers will want to come back to when it is over. He knows how to manage complex logistics and bring large groups of people together. Even when faced with severe restrictions for events, his company, Trixstar, was busy creating pandemic proof event manifestos, and blue-sky concepts for safe gatherings.

“When everything came crashing down we were putting up material about what events look like after this, and showing some optimism,” he says. “It is important to get people together and to celebrate.” He admits there are good days and bad days. “It is a rollercoaster of emotions,” he says. “Obviously we feel terrible. It affects us, but it affects so many companies. From the security companies, to the ticketing companies, to the tent company, to the production company – all those people are affected.”

Event photographer Dale MacMillan also worries about the people behind the scenes. He has lost more than 100 days of shooting for professional sporting events, large music events, festivals and fairs, which makes up about 60% of his income, and he knows others are in the same situation.

Dale MacMilon takes event photos like this shot of Trixstar

“There’s a guy sitting out there with probably a quarter section of land and he’s probably got 5500 porta potties that are out at ten to 20 events throughout the month, and he is affected tremendously,” says MacMillan. “I see some of the guys that are usually in the business of trucking the machinery to set up the fairs and festivals that are delivering for Amazon now. I look at all of those people who work the booths to break plates. They are not working at all. How else is a guy who owns a plate breaking booth going to get any other business?”

Even artists like Clayton Bellamy are wondering how to pay their bills. As a successful singer/songwriter and member of Canada’s top country band, The Road Hammers, he wishes the gold records on his wall represented a decent living, but admits there is no money to be made without touring. With up to 90% of his income derived from live shows, and almost no revenue from music streaming, he says he will do whatever it takes to feed his family.

“Obviously I have kids and that comes first before anything,” he says. “The main thing to do is to find work.” He also knows lack of touring impacts others. “Our band employs a lot of people. It is not just me on the stage – it is the tour manager, and the person in the office answering the phones at the management company, and the manager. We help employ 50 people. If you think about the industry as a whole, there are a lot of people relying on that trickle-down.”

Clayton Bellamy

Beckett says the model for live events has changed forever.

“If we are going to collapse, then we are going to give it all we can. Right now, we are optimistic that we can somehow find ways to juggle.”

Production World is streaming virtual events to online audiences, and delivering reimagined AHS compliant live events with a mobile stage, video wall, and in-car audio for things like graduations, weddings, movies, drive in music events, and even funerals. They are retrofitting churches for virtual services, and recording content to deliver music and sermons to parishioners.

Sisson suggests his industry should collaborate with government and other industry professionals to develop a plan, like doing events by the hour to control occupancy counts, disinfecting surfaces, contact tracing and testing, and utilizing existing technologies like temperature checks and facial recognition.

“I will be ashamed of our industry if we cannot have something that is approved and a way to conduct ourselves by October,” he says. “At the end of the day there are a lot of livelihoods that need to get looked after.”

MacMillan says the advice his parents gave him to plan for a rainy day was valid. He will get creative with other revenue sources and try to take advantage of programs and subsidies.

“If it helps you along one more month, it is one more month that you can make it until things open up again.”

Bellamy tries to keep his mental health in check by maintaining a rigorous schedule of practicing, writing, and working on existing projects. He plans to finish a new record so he can hit the ground running when touring resumes.

“Right now, I have no income,” he says. “I don’t have a safety net. I don’t have a plan B.”

He says if people want to support their favourite artists they should buy music and merchandise directly, like and share posts and music on social media, and send a letter to the government to help change laws that impact fair pay for artists’ streaming rights.

A return to “normal” is a long way off, and no matter when life starts to feel unrestricted again the world will be altered, and things will be different. Behind the scenes, the event industry not just trying to reinvent itself, it is fighting for survival.

“People don’t think about the human side of it and all that goes into it and all the different companies that come together to produce an event,” says Anderson. “Nobody in the entertainment industry is making a dollar right now. Everyone has to figure out how to survive this, and survive it together. So, my optimism is, I think a lot of companies are going to survive this because they are working together. They are going to support each other once we come out the other side.”

On September 22nd Canadian event industry technicians, suppliers and venues from across the country will Light Up Live events in red to raise awareness for the live event industry – which is still dark.

www.ilancooley.com

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