Chicago health officials say the massive gathering at Lollapalooza over the weekend shouldn’t be blamed for rising COVID cases.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Grant Park last weekend for the music festival. Now the number of COVID-19 cases in Chicago is on the rise.
“It’s clearly on the rise, not the result of Lolla,” says Dr. Alison Arwady, Director of the Chicago Public Health Department. “To be very clear about it, we’re on the rise because the surge we were expecting is coming.” Chicago is currently recording around 234 cases per day, based on a moving 7-day average. The number of cases in Chicago has increased 40% over the last week.
Dr. Arwady says she went ‘undercover’ at the Lollapalooza music festival to see how COVID-19 precautions were being enforced.
“I actually went through those gates multiple times not known,” Arwady says. “I was really pleased. These people didn’t know who I was. I was in the middle of a big crowd of other kids coming in. They stopped, they looked.”
Arwady says she wanted to confirm security was checking for COVID vaccination proof. “We saw a lot of people getting turned away if they didn’t come in with anything,” Arwady says. “But also if the dates weren’t good.” She says vaccine ambassadors were on site at the huge event to encourage people to sign up for vaccines.
“Most music festivals across the U.S. really big ones even, are not having a testing or vaccination requirement,” Arwady says. “I don’t think that’s wise with the increase in the delta variant.” Officials have confirmed that 97% of people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since January were not fully vaccinated.
Due to the uptick in cases in the Chicago area, Lollapalooza organizers required masks in indoor areas on Saturday and Sunday. The event took place at full capacity this past weekend, with attendees requiring two vaccinations or a negative COVID test. Dr. Emily Landon has a different opinion than Chicago’s public health officials.
“I think a lot of people are going to get COVID at Lollapalooza,” she says. She’s the Executive Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
“The real problem is not so much that a bunch of young people who come into Chicago getting COVID at this event. The real problem is them taking it back to places that have very low vaccination rates.”