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Mallory Johnson performs at the 2019 East Coast Music Awards Gala in Charlottetown on May 2, 2019.

John Morris/The Canadian Press

Plans to hold the East Coast Music Awards in person have been quashed by organizers after a sudden rise of COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia.

This year’s ECMAs, which were set to take place on May 6 in Sydney, N.S., will now happen virtually, with further details to be announced in the coming days.

The move comes as health officials in the province reported 44 new cases on Friday, which marked the largest single-day increase in a year.

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Dean Stairs, chair of the ECMA’s board of directors, says the decision wasn’t made lightly as musicians have seen their “livelihoods decimated since the start of the pandemic.”

Other in-person events tied to the ECMAs are also being moved online.

The awards ceremony was expected to be a special one, partly because the community is the hometown of Rita MacNeil.

The late singer-songwriter was set to be the focus of a musical tribute by her former bandmates and friends as part of an induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Leading nominees at this year’s ceremony include rapper Classified with eight nods and singer-songwriter Rose Cousins with six.

The ECMAs are also introducing a new category called African Canadian Artist of the Year.

The East Coast Music Awards festival and conference events run from May 5 to 9. Tickets for the awards show will be automatically refunded in the coming days, organizers said.

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