Pendleton Whisky Music Fest in Pendleton, Oregon, which took place on July 10, was tied to 62 cases in the state.
The Faster Horses Festival in Brooklyn, Michigan, a three-day country music festival that took place from July 16 to 18 was tied to 96 Covid cases in the state.
Fallout from both festivals have many experts worried these events may have returned too soon, and that it may not be safe to hold these gatherings in the wake of the highly transmissible Indian ‘Delta’ variant.
Pendleton Whisky Music Fest in Pendleton, Oregon, has been tied to 62 COVID-19 cases. Pictured: Pendleton partygoers enjoy live music on July 10
Faster Horses Festival in Brooklyn, Michigan, has been tied to 92 COVID-19 cases and one hospitalization. Pictured: Attendees of the three day event post for a photo
Neither of the two events connected to 158 cases required attendants to be vaccinated.
At least one case tied to the Michigan festival has resulted in a hospitalization.
‘These events are the warning shot across the bow,’ Dr Emily Landon, executive medical director for infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medical Center told Rolling Stone.
Chicago recently had a massive music festival as well, with more than 100,000 revelers descended to Grant Park for Lollapalooza – one of the world’s most iconic yearly festivals.
While the event did require either proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend, some still fear it could have caused an outbreak after photos of massive crowds circulated.
Generally, outdoor events are safer than indoor events.
Lollapalooza is one of the biggest music festivals in the world with over 100,000 attendees for each of its four days
COVID-19 has trouble spreading outdoors due to the constant, natural, circulation of the air.
Although the risk of outdoor transmission is less than 0.1 percent, it is not zero and can certainly happen in groups as large as those at the festivals.
‘I think we’re finding it does matter what you do outdoors,’ Landon said.
‘And even though people are vaccinated, it looks like we may need to be more careful with super-crowded events.’
This is because the main benefit of outdoor events – the air circulation – largely disappears in these festivals.
‘If you’re outside and you’re packed in with someone,’ Dr Alex Huffman, a chemistry professor at the University of Denver told Rolling Stone.
‘It’s getting closer to being like an indoor environment, where you have really high aerosol exposure from the person that’s a foot from you, or even inches from you.’
In Pendleton, for example, a majority of transmission was traced to people in the ‘party pit’ area of the festival, where many congregate in a small space.
Landon told Rolling Stone that those types of pit areas are the most dangerous.
Almost all major outdoor gatherings, like music festivals, were halted last summer amid the pandemic.
This year, though, with the vaccine now available, many believe it is safer for them to resume.
These events are also planned months in advance as well, and the United States had cases rapidly decline from February to June.
Then, as summer was just beginning, the highly contagious Delta variant struck the nation, causing massive case surges among the unvaccinated.
The United States is nearing 100,000 daily average cases mark for the first time since February – when the country was on the back side of the largest COVID-19 surge it will likely ever see.
Since July 1, cases have increased from around 19,000 per day to 98,000 per day – a 415 percent increase.
While the massive surge was not caused by these events, they are playing a role in exacerbating the situation.
Requiring vaccinations to attend may be a tough ask as well, though it could help boost vaccine demand among the younger Americans most likely to attend these types of events – who are also among the age group least likely to be jabbed.