CHICAGO – The hordes of people expected to descend on Chicago's Grant Park for the Lollapalooza music festival this week will be required to show proof that they've been vaccinated for COVID-19 or tested negative for the disease within the last three days.
The four-day festival starts Thursday and is expected to be back at full capacity, with roughly 100,000 daily attendees. After missing last summer because of the threat of the coronavirus, it will easily be Chicago's largest gathering since the pandemic started, and one of the country's.
This year's festival will look very different than in the past. To gain entry, attendees will have to present their vaccination cards or a printed copy of a negative COVID-19 test that is no more than 72 hours old. That means that anyone with a four-day pass who isn't vaccinated will have to get tested twice. Furthermore, anyone who isn't vaccinated will have to wear a mask.
Public health officials and others have raised concerns that such a large gathering, even outdoors, risks turning into a super-spreader event. Officials in the Netherlands were shocked after a much smaller music festival attended by 20,000 people over two days early this month led to nearly 1,000 cases of COVID-19, CNBC reported. That festival had similar safeguards to Lollapalooza's.
Despite the recent spike in cases caused by the highly contagious delta variant, Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said this week that she feels comfortable with Lollapalooza going ahead as planned because of the precautions organizers are taking, saying they have gone “above and beyond." In addition to the entry requirements, organizers have looked at air ventilation for any indoor spaces, made sure backstage workers are vaccinated, will make masks available and will test ticket-takers.
“I would not feel comfortable moving ahead with Lollapalooza without COVID protocols in place,” Arwady said. “I don’t think I would feel comfortable if this were an indoor event, either. And I frankly don’t think I would feel comfortable if we were sitting in Louisiana right now, where cases are looking like they’re looking.”
Although the number of new daily cases in Chicago has climbed, from 104 a week ago to 176 as of Wednesday, the city hasn't had the kind of surge many other parts of the country have experienced in recent weeks, and its daily average number of deaths and hospitalizations have dropped slightly.
"We're taking COVID seriously,” Arwady said.
At the same time, "When you're having this many folks who are coming through almost certainly there will be some cases. But I’m confident that the combination of what we know about limiting risk in outdoor settings, pairing that with vaccination and or testing and ideally mostly vaccination, which is what we expect, as well as all the other mitigation factors.
Lollapalooza officials did not immediately respond to a request for further information on its screening process, but on the festival's website, they say that there will be people manning every entryway to search all bags that attendees are carrying as well as make sure nobody is allowed entry carrying anything other than small purses, totes and drawstring bags.