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Chicago’s Top Doc Says ‘No Evidence’ Lollapalooza Was Super Spreader Event

August 12, 2021 by Dan McCue
Fans gather and cheer on day one of the Lollapalooza music festival at Grant Park in Chicago. (AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar)

CHICAGO — To anyone still waiting for a sign that it’s safe to attend concerts and other large outdoors events, the weekly update from Chicago’s top medical official on Thursday was good news indeed — the four-day Lollapalooza festival was no super-spreader event.

Dr. Allison Arwady said since the festival, held July 29 through Aug 1, in the city’s Grant Park, officials have seen just 203 cases of COVID-19 that can be definitively linked to the concerts which were attended by more than 385,000 people.

“The bottom line is, 13 days post Lollapalooza , we have not seen anything that surprised us,” Arwady said. “Nor is there any evidence that the festival had a substantial impact on Chicago’s COVID epidemiology.”

“We would have seen a surge if we were going to see a surge at this point,” she said.

Arwady, who is Chicago’s Public Health Commissioner, said Department of Public Health officials cast a wide net to analyze the impact of the festival and cautioned that some of the 203 cases reported Thursday might include cases that have nothing to do with the concerts.

For instance, 13 Chicago residents who tested positive after the event reported attending Lollapalooza on or after the day their symptoms began.

Only 0.0004% of vaccinated attendees tested positive, and 0.0016% of unvaccinated attendees tested positive, Arwady said.

Among those who tested positive, city officials said 138 were Illinois residents from outside Chicago, 58 were from the city and seven were from out of state. Nearly 80% of those who tested positive were under 30, and about 62% were White, Arwady said.

None of the reported cases resulted in hospitalizations or deaths.

Arwady said a survey of Lollapalooza attendees revealed that 76% felt safer due to a requirement that they show proof of a vaccination or a negative test before entering, while 11% said they felt neither safer or less safe, and 11% said it made no difference to them.

“At the same time, we also found that anticipation of the festival — wanting to attend — helped drive up vaccination rates for younger people,” she said.

“We’re really pleased to see other large music festivals around the country following our lead here,” she added.

Looking ahead, Arwady said while the Lollapalooza numbers are encouraging, “the COVID risk cannot be eliminated.”

“We want to stay open as a city, but staying open also means being careful,” she said. “It means first and foremost, getting vaccinated, it means getting tested if you have any COVID symptoms, and for now, wearing a mask in indoor public places. 

“Now’s the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t had the chance yet,” Arwady added. “Vaccinating all age-eligible Chicago residents is absolutely the most important strategy to keep people out of the hospital and to save lives, and to get Chicago post-COVID.”

She said to further promote the message, the city will make free concert tickets for the upcoming Chicago Music Series exclusively available to vaccinated Chicagoans.

“And we continue to absolutely recommend that all festivals and large event organizers require all attendees to be fully vaccinated against COVID, or have a negative COVID test. We also are continuing to obviously recommend wearing the mask indoors right now, regardless of vaccination status — not forever, but until we get through this delta surge.”

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