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TIFF sends emails confirming COVID-19 case at festival press and industry screenings

TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival is warning some festivalgoers of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in an audience member who attended press and industry screenings.
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TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival is warning some festivalgoers of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in an audience member who attended press and industry screenings.

The TIFF organization said Thursday that its customer relations team was informed of a positive COVID-19 test result but did not say when or how the case was discovered.

The festival declined to confirm which screenings, or how many, were involved but note their health and safety consultants consider the case to be "low risk" due to "strictly enforced COVID protocols in place at all TIFF venues."

Accredited TIFF journalist Arianne Binette received two emails from the festival on Thursday morning with notice of a potential COVID-19 exposure in two separate press screenings.

One involved a showing of "Dune" on Saturday, the other was "The Humans" on Sunday. Both were at the Scotiabank Theatre.

Ticketholders for a press and industry screening of "Bergman Island" on Sunday morning at the Scotiabank Theatre were also notified by TIFF organizers, according to screenshots posted on Twitter.

“It was a matter of time,” Binette said by phone Thursday. “I think TIFF did the best they could, but unfortunately this is the world we live in.”

The 28-year-old Toronto resident said people were seated “too close” at the sold-out screening of "Dune" with one seat between each person and no separation between rows.

However, the seating arrangements followed Ontario COVID-19 guidelines for movie theatres, which require each auditorium capped at 50 per cent capacity.

Press and industry tickets were handed out mostly as single seats meaning under those capacity limits only one vacant seat would be between each person.

Anyone entering TIFF venues must wear masks, socially distance and show proof they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or present a negative test taken within 48 hours before entry.

A TIFF spokeswoman disputed a story in the Hollywood Reporter which said a confirmed COVID case was also present at a press conference for the Tribute Awards, attended by celebrities including Dionne Warwick, Jessica Chastain, and "Dune" director Denis Villeneuve. The representative declined to offer further details.

The 10-day Toronto film festival closes Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2021.

Victoria Ahearn and Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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