Halloween in Vancouver: Mass gatherings, violence, and fires, as COVID-19 cases expected to surge

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      Despite warnings from health officials to maintain health precautions during Halloween, all of that appeared to go out the window over the weekend in Vancouver as partiers gathered in the streets, numerous violent incidents took place across the city, victims were hospitalized, and fireworks and fires caused hundreds of thousands dollars worth of damages.

      The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) stated today (November 2) that during the Halloween weekend, officers responded to over 800 calls between 7 p.m. on October 31 and 5 a.m. on November 1.

      While the average call time is every two minutes and 16 seconds, the VPD stated that there was a new call every one minute and 11 seconds during Halloween.

      Violence

      A few minutes after midnight on November 1, two groups at Empire Field near Hastings and Cassiar streets became embroiled in an altercation. One male victim was taken to hospital for non-life-threatening injuries from a stabbing. No suspects have been arrested yet but this incident remains under investigation.

      Between 5:15 and 6:15 a.m., a series of serious incidents took place in the Downtown Eastside.

      At 5:48 a.m., a woman in her 50s near East Hastings and Columbia streets was hit over the head with a blunt object. She was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. This assault is being investigated.

      Three minutes later at East Hastings and Carrall streets, man in his late 30s sustained stab wounds. He was taken to hospital in critical condition, and the case is being investigated.

      Then at 6:12 a.m., officers,who were still attending with the stabbing victim in his 30s, were approached by another man. This man, in his late 20s, was also suffering from stab wounds and he was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The assault is under investigation. 

      On the evening of Halloween, a large number of people congregated on the Granville strip in Downtown Vancouver, with many people present not practising physical distancing or wearing non-medical masks.

      The VPD stated that the crowd “grew larger than expected during a pandemic” so additional reinforcements were brought in from around the city for assistance.

      The VPD explained that because of “the hostile demeanour and size of Saturday’s crowd”, officers did not issue social distancing tickets because. after taking police and public safety into consideration, “it would not have been a safe or an efficient use of the available police resources at the time”.

      Police witnessed a white Range Rover driving along Granville Street with passengers sitting on the sides of vehicle out of the windows.

      When officers stopped the vehicle, the passengers got out and swarmed the officers. As the group increased to about 30 people and became “increasingly belligerent”, officers called for backup.

      During the swarming, one man jumped on to the hood of a police vehicle. Officers arrested this man for breach and peace and he was taken into custody. Meanwhile, another police vehicle had one of its side windows smashed.

      A total of four victims were taken to hospital for treatment of various injuries, and one officer broke his hand.

      Fires

      Shortly after midnight on November 1, flames burst from an unoccupied purple Porsche Panamera, which the VPD and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services deem as a suspected arson. No one was injured in this incident, which remains under investigation, and no other damaged property was reported in relation to this incident.

      In addition, with a ban on the sale and use fireworks effective as of November 1, numerous fireworks were set off over the weekend, including after the ban came into effect.

      Vancouver Fire Rescue Services told CTV News that they responded to almost 300 calls on Halloween night, which is 30 percent more than an average night.

      The 38 confirmed fires—which included hedge and trees fires, trash-bin and container blazes, a structure fire in the Downtown Eastside—caused an estimated $450,000 in damage. 

      The VPD also stated that an 88-year-old woman who was asleep in her West End apartment on the fifth floor on October 29 when something broke through her window and hit her head.

      When police arrived, the woman was burned on her head, there were two holes in her living-room window, and there were glass and cardboard fragments on the floor. Police determined that the cardboard were the remanants of fireworks. 

      A witness told police that she saw the suspects, who set off the fireworks, headed west down Comox Street. However, police were unable to locate the suspects.  

      COVID-19 surge 

      Today, the B.C. COVID-19 update will be conducted by deputy health officer Dr. Réka Gustafson (substituting for Henry) and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix.

      Dix told CBC News today that the case numbers confirmed over the weekend, which they will be reporting at today’s briefing, are “significant”. He said that the high numbers are particularly high in Metro Vancouver and even in the wake of three record highs established last week. The current record high number of new cases was set on October 22 with 274 new cases. 

      However, these cases are not linked to what transpired during the Halloween weekend, as symptoms take several days to manifest and the incubation period can last up to 14 days.

      Even though Henry had issued a provincial health officer order on October 26 that limited gatherings in private homes to the household members plus six guests, Dix stated that private parties remain a main source for the increase in cases.

      Last week, Henry and Dix were joined by Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee at a B.C. COVID-19 briefing held in Surrey on October 29 to address the high numbers in the Fraser Valley region.

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