Despite a rising number of COVID-19 cases in Chicago, the show is going on.
Lollapalooza, the massive music festival that routinely attracts more than 100,000 people per day to its stages, starts next week.
The four-day event returns to Grant Park after being canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the pandemic is not over. Despite the more transmissible delta variant driving a rise in cases in the city and around the U.S., the festival will take place at full capacity.
DeRogatis cited a music festival that drew 20,000 attendees to the Netherlands earlier this month that was linked to 1,000 coronavirus infections. The festival required proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result.
Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director for infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medical Center, says holding the festival as COVID-19 cases tick up is “a terrible idea.” She said people who attend the event should accept the fact that they’re probably going to get exposed to COVID-19. If someone is immunocompromised or unvaccinated and trying to avoid getting COVID-19, they should stay home, she said.
Chicago’s daily average number of new confirmed cases is 100 and the positivity rate is 1.6%.
Lollapalooza’s entry protocols require a full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of attending. Organizers say unvaccinated people should wear a mask at the event and, along with those at high risk for severe COVID-19, avoid crowded areas of the grounds and stay at least 6 feet away from other groups.
DeRogatis said he’s doubtful those requirements would be met. Hundreds of people break into the festival by pushing the fences down each year, he noted.
“They can’t control their own gates,” said DeRogatis. “Why are we supposed to believe that they are going to be diligent about checking for vaccination?”
There’s also a likelihood that attendees will be arriving from areas that are under the city’s travel advisory. Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada and the U.S. Virgin Islands are currently on the list. And not everyone is on the same page as Chicago when it comes to wearing masks and getting vaccinated, Landon said.
“There are a lot of parts of the country where people don’t want to wear masks, they don’t want to get vaccinated, they don’t want to follow the rules of making sure you get tested, so you really should know that before you embark on this,” Landon said.
In addition to possible health issues, DeRogatis said he’s worried about the local music venues in Chicago that have been struggling throughout the pandemic. Many are just starting to open back up, but a spike in COVID-19 cases due to Lollapalooza could threaten those venues with another shutdown.
DeRogatis said they’re “lucky to be alive after 18 months of darkness.”
Note: We invited Lollapalooza organizers to join this conversation, but they said they didn’t have anyone available.