COVID Chicago: City's top doctor says 'no evidence' Lollapalooza 2021 a super-spreader event

Lollapalooza super-spreader? City officials have said they don't regret hosting Lolla, which saw crowds over 100K daily

ByMaher Kawash and Jesse Kirsch WLS logo
Thursday, August 12, 2021
Chicago's top doctor says 'no evidence' Lolla a super-spreader event
According to CDPH Commissioner Dr.Allison Arwady, Lollapalooza has spawned only 203 COVID infections and there is "no evidence" the music festival was a super-spreader event.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's top doctor said there's "no evidence" Lollapalooza was a "super-spreader" event.

Two weeks ago Thursday, Lollapalooza kicked off. And on Thursday morning Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, gave some answers about cases linked to the big music festival.

At two weeks since the start of the music festival, the city is well within the timeline to see COVID symptoms develop and cases be able to be identified that can be linked to the event. Arwady said an estimated 385,000 people were there throughout the four day festival.

So far, only 203 attendees have tested positive for COVID-19, or about 0.05% of people who attended.

"The bottom line is, we've not see anything that has surprised us related to this Lollapalooza outbreak," Arwady said.

WATCH: Chicago's top doctor details COVID cases linked to Lollapalooza

Chicago's top doctor detailed COVID cases linked to Lollapalooza Thursday.

She said there was "no evidence" of a "super-spreader" event, as some feared the large event could become. There were about 385,000 attendees, and roughly 90% were vaccinated, Arwady said.

"If we were more than 90% vaccinated as a city, as a country, we would probably be done with COVID," she said.

No hospitalizations or deaths have been linked to the fest.

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

"If folks are going to large events, please get vaccinated. It helps reduce risk for everybody," she said.

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Arwady said they have worked with health departments across the country to identify positive cases. She said the infection rate is about 4 times higher among the unvaccinated.

For now, Arwady said there are no plans to cancel events but stressed that outdoor is safer. She recommends organizers require proof of vaccinated or a negative test like Lolla mandated.

She also feels confident enough to allow upcoming indoor events in Chicago.

Black Women's Expo executive producer Merry Green said her team will recommend masks but not require them for guests inside a reconfigured, larger space at McCormick Place, and instead of mandating vaccination or testing, she'd rather focus on overcoming vaccine hesitancy in the Black community.

"I think that's more important for our community than trying to say we're not doing events. We're there with the vaccines for all of those who need it," she said.

Just days after Lollapalooza, a total of 100,000 more filled the streets of Belmont Avenue and Addison Street for the Northalsted Market Days, and, of course, the Crosstown Classic was on the same weekend.

The weekend's Bud Biliken Parade will require masks inside festival grounds for everyone and proof of full vaccination or a negative test. The unvaccinated won't be allowed to enter unless they agree to get the shot that day.

The parade route cannot be controlled, but Arwady said her bigger concern around outdoor parades are the indoor events that go with it. She asked bars and restaurants to check for a vaccine or a test.

As of Thursday morning in Chicago, new cases are up by 39% since last week, and COVID-related hospital visits are up by 6%.

Arwady said that while Chicago is seeing "substantial" transmission, about 362 cases per day, it's nothing like the first or second surge the city saw.

Breakthrough cases continue to be very rare; most cases are among unvaccinated residents.

Most contracting COVID are in their 30s and 40s; there has not been a significant surge among children, Arwady said.

She also said vaccinations have been increasing over the past few weeks. Over half of 12 to 17 year olds in the city are now vaccinated.

There are some more large gatherings planned in Chicago next month, like the Pitchfork music festival, but Arwady said she's worried about what the fall and winter could bring with the delta variant, which makes up most cases.