Here’s Hoping COVID-19 Didn’t Get Tickets To Chicago’s Lollapalooza Festival
Was the four-day Lollapalooza festival in Chicago a potential COVID-19 superspreader event, like last year's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally or the Donald Trump administration? We'll just have to wait and see. An estimated 100,000 people came out each night for the music festival, sweating and grinding next to each other without masks. Public officials are concerned, but there is some precedent that large gatherings outdoors pose a limited risk of transmission. There were no reported surges linked to the public protests after George Floyd's murder or the Return of the Jedi-style celebrations when Joe Biden won the presidency.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added Cook County, Illinois, to its list of areas experiencing “substantial" COVID-19 spread. Hospitalizations related to the virus had also increased 35 percent. The highly contagious Delta variant is spreading primarily among the unvaccinated, and unfortunately that's not just willfully ignorant and obstinate adults but also children.
Lollapalooza attendees were required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test before admission to the festival. Mayor Lori Lightfoot claimed that 90 percent of festival goers were vaccinated. That's well above the 70 percent threshold for herd immunity, and if you're cynically thinking that sounds like an unrealistic number, considering overall vaccination rates for young adults, kindly observe how rigorously people's vaccine credentials were checked before entry:
Vaccine check from @lollapalooza this weekend. No forgeries here. https://t.co/rKAfJD8VM7— Jon J. Kerr (@Jon J. Kerr)1627925788.0
Reportedly, the Biden administration is upset with what it considers “overly alarmed" coverage of the rare instances where a vaccinated person contracts COVID-19 (a “breakthrough" case). What's not stressed enough beyond the clickbait is that vaccinated people rarely suffer severe symptoms or even die, both of which are serious risks for the unvaccinated. Washington Post columnist Max Boot wrote yesterday: "Of the 164 million Americans who have been vaccinated, only 0.077% have been infected, 0.004% have been hospitalized, and 0.001% have died. More than 99% of covid deaths are occurring among unvaccinated people."
Wonkette's position was that the Biden administration should've kept the mask mandate in place until we'd reached herd immunity. Shifting backwards ensures decreased compliance and provides ammunition to the rightwing disinformation campaign.
Now, we're seeing the return of stories about Democratic politicians seemingly disregarding their own COVID-19 guidance and restrictions. Lightfoot was criticized for appearing maskless at Lollapalooza, even though she's fully vaccinated and was outside. Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser was also called out for enjoying a celebrity-studded, maskless birthday party in her honor, just hours before a citywide mask mandate resumed Saturday at 5 a.m.
Technically, Bowser didn't break the rules—the new mask mandate had not gone into effect yet—and as long as everyone was vaccinated, this kind of gathering is quite safe. But this is still rank hypocrisy.
Huh? They're mad at Bowser because of her coordinated party planning?
CNN's John Berman and Briana Keilar debated Bowser's supposed hypocrisy and leadership failures this weekend. Happy birthday! Berman noted that Bowser hadn't actually violated the rules, but Keilar disagreed because apparently COVID-19 knows no season.
KEILAR: I think that is fair to say, but I think it might also be about, is she violating the spirit of it?
No, we were still on a break from masks. You could tell how defeated Berman felt from this tedious exchange because he asked, “It's hard for me to remember what we're all supposed to be angry about." He'd transitioned fully from CNN anchor to Bono circa 1993.
BERMAN: It wasn't that long ago that we were all criticizing politicians for wearing masks still where the science was telling them, oh, they didn't need to be. We kept on asking the White House, why is Joe Biden still wearing the mask when the mask guidance has changed? And now of course, we're saying she should be wearing a mask even though she was still following the guidance.
It's not Mayor Bowser's fault that your MAGA relatives listened to Tucker Carlson instead of Dr. Anthony Fauci or even a random Magic 8-Ball lying around the house. We're now in a race to get everyone vaccinated before COVID-19 kills more people needlessly.
The Washington Examiner also revealed that Bowser officiated a wedding this weekend, after the mask mandate went into effect, where she was allegedly photographed without wearing a mask. Bowser's office insists that she only had her mask off when she was eating or drinking. That distinction never made much sense to me. It's not as if we negotiated rules of engagement with COVID-19, but it still seems as if Bowser is trying to live her life in accordance with the new guidelines.
We'd all like to get back to our lives, so everyone get vaccinated and mask up until this is finally behind us.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."