CHICAGO — Chicago health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday she is “certainly hopeful” the city “won’t see a significant problem” with COVID-19 when it welcomes 100,000 daily attendees from around the world to Lollapalooza this week.
“I would not feel comfortable moving ahead with Lollapalooza without COVID protocols in place. I don’t think I would feel comfortable if this were an indoor event either. And I, frankly, don’t think I would feel comfortable if we were sitting in Louisiana right now where cases are looking like they’re looking,” Arwady said at a news conference where she noted the highly contagious delta variant is fueling a rise in coronavirus cases in Chicago.
“But where we are right now, we’re taking COVID seriously. And I can’t promise that there won’t be any COVID cases associated with Lolla. When you’re having this many folks who are coming through, almost certainly there will be some cases. But I’m confident that the combination of what we know about limiting risk in outdoor settings, pairing that with vaccination and/or testing — and ideally mostly vaccination, which is what we expect — as well as all the other mitigation factors, I’m certainly hopeful that we won’t see a significant problem.”
Arwady’s comments come two days before Lollapalooza is set to kick off in Grant Park on Thursday. To enter the four-day festival, attendees must show a printed copy of their vaccine card or their vaccine record. If they are unvaccinated, they need to show they received a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of entrance into the festival. Festgoers who can’t provide this documentation at one of the security checkpoints will be turned away, the city said.
When city officials and Lollapalooza organizers announced the return of the annual festival in May, unvaccinated festgoers were supposed to get a negative COVID-19 test result within 24 hours of entry each day they attended. The testing window was expanded to 72 hours sometime in late June or early July, according to a Tribune review of festival communications.
“When we started actually looking into operationalizing this, what we see is all over the country, 72 hours is the more typical standard, and that’s primarily because if people are getting a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, it actually takes more than 24 hours for that result to return,” Arwady said Tuesday.
“And so we made that decision after we had gone ahead with reopening and all of the written guidance really since then. It was really about us looking to see what was practical and then also what is in line with standard practices.”
People should not attend Lollapalooza if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are fully vaccinated, Arwady said. Those who are not vaccinated should wear masks in the park and at parties afterward, she said.
“Don’t attend Lolla, really, don’t attend if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 and you haven’t taken a test, even if you’re fully vaccinated. And if you’ve tested positive for COVID in the last 14 days, do not attend,” Arwady said.
Organizers of Chicago’s largest music festival have gone “above and beyond” with their coronavirus protocols, Arwady said, including making masks available on site and improving air circulation in indoor areas.