By Jenifer Garcia
With the worldwide pandemic continuing to spread in the U.S., it was not ideal to hold in-person concerts in 2020, and with the pandemic getting worse in a lot of American states in the summer of 2021, concerts haven’t been so ideal to hold this year, either. Social distancing seems almost impossible to enforce in crowded venues, and now that in-person concerts are coming back, the health and safety of others have piqued the interest of many artists who stage shows and their fans. Technicians and stage crew that oversee setting up stages/shows for artists holding concerts are still at risk for catching the virus, even if vaccinated.
Now that the vaccine is widely available, many concerts and music festivals are requiring attendees to show their vaccine cards to enter the venue. According to the Austin American-Statesman, “63% of the people are currently vaccinated in Travis County.” Lollapalooza, one of the biggest festivals in Chicago had more than 100,000 attendees on the four-day week festival. In order for attendees to enter the festival, they had to show proof of their vaccination card, or a negative test taken 48-hours before the festival. According to Chicago’s Very Own, “90% of attendees presented proof of vaccination. Around 600 people were not allowed to enter the festival due to lack of paperwork.” People seem to be more at ease with opening the world again and having concerts. Even though many concert organizers are doing their best to reduce risk, some workers still have concerns.
Janet Soto, an event organizer at Austin City Limits, doesn’t quite feel safe working again. “There are many attendees that do not follow the right protocols like keeping their masks on when they are inside. There is not a lot we can do since we can’t keep reminding people one by one to keep their masks on. Even if they have all their COVID vaccines you still can have COVID and spread it to other people; that is what concerns me the most.” This is the reality of some workers now, fearing for their health and the health of their loved ones. There have been thousands of cases of people who have caught COVID while they were fully vaccinated but people who aren’t vaccinated are still five times more likely to catch COVID and are more likely to spread it and be hospitalized, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ever since Governor Greg Abbott banned mandates in Texas in May, COVID-19 cases have been surging. There was an average of 13,874 active daily cases in Texas at the end of September with 50% of people fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times. The daily cases have been going up from the previous weeks. The new Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is now known to infect the population more rapidly than earlier COVID-19 variants. COVID-19 used to take one or two weeks for an infected person to start showing symptoms, but the Delta variant can take only about two days for symptoms to appear. This is a big concern for health experts as hospitals are beginning to reach full capacity in many places. About 13,036 people in Texas were being hospitalized daily in September, according to The New York Times.
Maritza Torres, a health care worker that works at Community Care in Austin, is concerned with concerts coming back. “Every day about 40 people come in and they are testing positive for COVID. Recently Harry Styles had a concert in San Antonio where thousands of people attended. We have gotten a lot of positive COVID tests of people who attended that concert,” Torres states. Torres must deal with patients who are infected every day, which increases her chances of getting infected herself. “I fear that I will get infected now that concerts are coming back, and now that ACL is around the corner, I fear that there will be a big surge of positive cases in the area.”
Austin City Limits is one of the biggest musical festivals in Austin, Texas. The two-week festival has an average of approximately 450,000 attendees each year. In 2019 the airport had its busiest day on record with about 29,700 travelers from all over the country coming to the festival, according to Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Some city leaders and health experts have concerns involving holding the festival this year. The city of Austin climbed to Stage 5 in summer, the highest level of COVID concerns, defined by at least 50 people per day being hospitalized with COVID over a 7-day average. On September 29, the city of Austin released a statement on the Austin City Limits stating that, “A printed copy of a negative COVID-19 test result will be required to attend ACL Festival 2021. The negative COVID-19 printed test result must be obtained within 72 hours of first entering ACL Festival each weekend. Patrons who are fully vaccinated may show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination instead of proof of negative test. Patrons showing proof of vaccine do not need to be tested to enter ACL Festival.” Many people are not happy with this policy. As of right now the festival is all sold out, but many attendees have been seen trying to re-sell their tickets on social media.
Maria Lopez bought her ticket two years ago when the festival got postponed. She is trying to sell her ticket because she still does not feel safe going to a crowded area where thousands of people are going to be present. “I still do not feel comfortable attending crowded areas, even if everyone wears a mask there is a possibility that someone around me will be infected. I will have to pass this one out and sell my ticket,” Lopez explained.