Covid Outbreaks Tied to Music Festivals Raise Outdoor Transmission Concerns
Health officials are investigating Covid-19 outbreaks tied to two recent outdoor music festivals in Michigan and Oregon, raising new concerns about the safety of events with tightly packed crowds, even outside, as live music surges back and the more transmissible Delta variant spreads.
“These events are the warning shot across the bow,” says Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director for infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She also points to the numerous cases reportedly tied to July’s Verknipt Festival in the Netherlands, which was also held outdoors. “I think we’re finding it does matter what you do outdoors,” Landon adds. “And even though people are vaccinated, it looks like we may need to be more careful with super-crowded events.”
Landon is most concerned about pit-type areas and crowded festivals. Even seats at a stadium are far more safe than those scenarios, she says, thanks to increased distance between fans and the lack of the countless close contacts that occur when wading through a sea of people. “When you get people in an orderly setup, facing the same direction, it’s really different,” she says. “Even that couple of feet of distance between the seats makes a big difference, compared with being in a pit at a show.”
She recommends that festivals and concerts require vaccinations, and that fans who insist on going into packed areas wear a mask — and eye protection as well. “Expecting someone to wear an N95 and a face shield to a summer music festival is a big ask,” she writes in an e-mail. “But if I had to go, that’s what I would do.”