Lolla COVID policy in place day before music festival, but health officials urge sick not to attend

Lollapalooza 2021 COVID rules include required vaccination, testing

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Thursday, July 29, 2021
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You need either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of reaching the gates of Lollapalooza, so on the eve of its start testing surged.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The day before there could be around 100,000 people in Chicago's Grant Park, city health officials Wednesday are pleading with Lollapalooza-goers not to attend the music festival if they feel sick.

Chicago has extra COVID concerns, with crowds beginning to arrive for the four-day Lollapalooza.

If possible attendees feel sick and haven't been tested, they should stay home, even if they're vaccinated, city health officials said Tuesday.

RELATED: Chicago COVID cases could trigger mask mandate return

To attend the festival, you need to either show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of the day you're heading inside.

Lab techs at COVID testing sites in the city said Wednesday was one of the busiest days they've seen in a long time, and they are expecting even longer lines at sites as the music festival kicks off Thursday.

City health experts said they're not too concerned over the event becoming a COVID super-spreader event because the festival is outdoors and has strict entry requirements.

"We're at 200, almost 300 so it's insanely crazy today," said Samanta Binderyte, lab worker at the Center for COVID control. "We're expecting more tomorrow, because tomorrow's the first day of Lolla."

Chicago's Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Lollapalooza organizers are taking safety very seriously.

"Everything from they've looked at their air handling for their indoor spaces and improved that, they're doing everything with making masks available and making sure their backstage are vaccinated and ensuring the ticket takers are tested and have really gone, I think, above and beyond," Arwady said.

But Arwady also acknowledged it's very likely there will be some COVID cases that come out of the four-day festival, with tens of thousands of people attending.

"I can't promise there won't be any COVID cases associated with Lolla. When you're having this many folks coming through, almost certainly there will be some cases," she said.

Binderyte has also seen a significant uptick in positive cases.

"We've been seeing a lot of positives lately though, a lot of children have been seeing positives, like five to nine years old; they've been getting sick a lot," she said.

She's also seen cases in people who are vaccinated.

"We had people come in that are vaccinated and they do have COVID but it's mild, it's not as bad, but I would always recommend getting vaccinated anyways because it's just your body's more immune to it," said Binderyte.

A tip for festival goers: Organizers are encouraging people to bring their physical vaccination cards or negative COVID test results, and not screenshots on their phones, to speed the process.

And the concert kicks off as Chicago adds nine more states to its travel advisory list.

Unvaccinated visitors traveling to Chicago from the now 14 states and one territory on the list are asked to get a negative COVID test result within 72 hours or quarantine for 10 days when they arrive.

Arwady is also asking people to limit how much alcohol and other substances they consume because those can make you less vigilant about COVID safety, in addition to the usual problems those items can cause.

Some people have decided they're just going to stay home, even if that means losing money.

"It's soft like ice cream in the sun, this, this has been a soft market from the get go," said Steve Buzil, owner of Sit Close Tickets.

Buzil, a ticket broker, said this year people don't have the usual appetite for Lollapalooza.

"I'm getting a lot of people now that are just offloading their wristbands ... they don't want to chance it because of this COVID nonsense and all the hoops they have to jump through," Buzil said.

The latest COVID case increases and new mask guidance for vaccinated people have accelerated the sell off, he said. At this point, he estimates 50% of the Lollapalooza tickets he's sold are coming back, particularly from parents.

"It is a losing proposition for those that own them, and they're trying to resell them," Buzil said.

Lollapalooza said it will refund tickets for people testing positive for COVID during their "72-hour pre-test" and for those testing positive who "are still in the 14-day isolation window."

But if you don't fall in one of those groups, Lollapalooza says all sales are final.

And that helps make this a buyers' market. If you are still thinking of going, Buzil said you could save as much as 45% depending on the ticket.

DEA warns of drug dangers at Lollapalooza

The Drug Enforcement Agency also has a warning about party drugs as festival-goers arrive in Chicago.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said popular party drugs are being laced with cocaine, meth and fentanyl, and Dr. Maria Rahmandar, an adolescent medicine pediatrician, points out even if you know the person you're getting drugs from, they're unregulated substances, and you have no idea what's actually in them.

"Alcohol is probably the No. 1 substance we see overused at these concert venues, and then where people get dehydrated, have alcohol overuse they might end up in an emergency room," Dr. Rahmandar said. "Another substance we worry about, particularly at a concert, is MDMA/molly/ecstasy."

U.S. DEA Public Information Officer Luis Agostini said, "Just two milligrams of fentanyl may be enough to kill a human being. To put that into perspective, if you took the U.S. penny, and you look at Abraham Lincoln's face and then you zoomed in on his cheek, that surface there on his cheek is just enough to cover two milligrams of fentanyl, and that's enough to kill someone, and that's not what we want to see this weekend."

The DEA said it is an important warning, with overdose deaths at the last two Lollapaloozas.