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"Future Music Festival 2013" by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity Photographer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Music festivals should not be happening this summer

It’s been over a year since music festivals across the globe were forced to close their gates due to the rising threat of COVID-19. Now just a little over a year later, music festivals such as Rolling Loud, Bonnaroo and Riot Fest are set to return throughout the summer and fall with notable headliners and artists that have attracted significant attention. 

While myself and many others have highly anticipated the point where we could once again participate in such large social events, the reality of this pandemic and the roll out of vaccines suggests that rushing into summer months of festivals and music may not be the best idea. 

Despite the rate of vaccinations increasing at an impressive rate, the fact of the matter is only around 30 percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated, and the rest of the world is struggling to catch up. Beyond just that, we still don’t fully understand the efficacy of any of the vaccines we have seen this year. 

According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, we are still learning how well the vaccine prevents us from spreading COVID-19 to other people and how long the vaccine will be effective for after the completed round of shots. Additionally, there is still no understanding how well these vaccines work against the threat of COVID-19 variants currently spreading across the United States. 

As we transition out of isolation and start making first steps towards safe interaction, the layout of these music festivals could very well destroy our progress. What makes these festivals especially concerning is that they tend to attract people across state lines, increasing the risk of a COVID-19 spike and spread if attendees contract the virus. 

There are ways these festivals could be made safer, restrictions that could be put in place to control who is able to enter, but so far we have not seen any of them take huge steps in that direction. The goal of these festivals reopening seems to be to attract as much attention and bring in as much profit as possible.

One way in which the risk of these events could be dramatically reduced is through travel restrictions. Though Chicago, home to Riot Fest, does have a travel order in place for some states, many of the other festivals mentioned do not have any strict restrictions. Therefore, attractive lineups are expected to result in an influx of audiences from states across the U.S., no matter how the threat of COVID-19 changes place to place. 

Most of these festivals, like Bonnarroo, have accepted the risks and have further protected themselves from possible legal consequences regarding COVID-19 contraction at their concerts. They have made statements saying anyone attending their concerts is at risk of contracting COVID-19, but they have not put measures in place to decrease that risk.

They have also asked concertgoers to be aware of all of their surroundings and follow all COVID-19 precautions that they have posted throughout their music festival grounds, a nice warning but not enough to keep people actually safe.

There is only so much monitoring and warning that festival producers can do, and as a result these statements are merely suggestions, not rules that will be strictly enforced. If these festivals are carried out as they are currently planned to be, with large crowds from states all across the U.S. and with people moving and living in close quarters, sanitation will become a massive issue. 

One of the best ways to decrease risk, would be to only allow those fully vaccinated through the front gates. Contrary to popular belief, Ticketmaster currently does not restrict people from buying tickets to events based on their COVID-19 status, something that must change. 

Having a music festival as close as July is too soon. Though summer festivals will continue to work with health experts to ensure it is “safe” to conduct regular festival activities, there is no information on where the line gets drawn and the reality will most likely be far from safe if a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people attend. Those who are currently planning to attend should consider the risk they are placing on themselves and those around them by doing so. 

Music festivals survive based on their attendance, but if great attendance puts the public in danger, it might be more worthwhile for these music festivals to push their dates a little further into the future and work on the restrictions they will have in place. If it means preventing deadly spikes across the U.S., waiting an extra month or two for fall concerts instead of summer ones, is hardly a sacrifice for Americans. 

We must not let our excitement for the end of this pandemic cloud our judgement; until the majority of Americans are fully vaccinated and these festivals have in place real rules to protect those attending, we need to rethink our plans for the summer. 

Written by Opinions Columnist Gabriella Salas.