Too soon for music festivals?

Photo by Elliott Brockelbank

COVID-19 adds a new risk to Music Midtown crowds

It’s 85 degrees out and you are in the middle of a screaming crowd that smells like someone’s blue raspberry vape cloud. You’re hot and sweaty, your legs tired after standing for two hours waiting for the next band to come on stage.

You cannot even turn around without bumping into the people next to you and god knows how long the line is for the unkempt porta potties — welcome to Music Midtown, Atlanta’s most popular music festival that’s happening in Piedmont Park this upcoming weekend.

Music festivals are gross and germ-infested in the best of times, but being in the midst of a pandemic brings a whole other issue to the table regarding public health and safety.

In 2019, Music Midtown drew a crowd of almost 50,000 people, and this year it can be expected to draw a crowd close in size as people are getting excited to go out again and see live music after a year of shutdown. As the music festival scene across the country is heating back up again, whether or not it is a good idea or the right time to have a major music festival in Atlanta comes into question.

This year, Music Midtown is requiring all attendees to have a full COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within three days of attending the festival.

In addition, Music Midtown is partnering with the City of Atlanta for an on-site vaccine drive that will run on Sunday. To incentivize people to come get vaccinated, the festival is giving away free tickets to anyone who gets their vaccine at one of the two locations within the park. While it’s great that the festival is attempting to air on the side of caution with regards to the pandemic, there are definitely some loopholes in their plan.

Number one, even if someone who is unvaccinated tests negative three days before attending the festival, that does not guarantee that they will not catch the virus or choose to quarantine within that time frame.

Secondly, having an incentive-based vaccination site at the festival is attracting non-vaccinated people to the festival who, despite their negative test requirement to attend, could still be carriers and expose more people who are already at the festival.

According to the CDC, vaccines are not even fully effective until around two weeks after getting vaccinated, and you need to have two doses for optimal immunity, so the logic behind allowing newly vaccinated people to go to the festival immediately after getting inoculated doesn’t make a lot of sense from a safety perspective.

Similar to the “freshman plague” as some may call it, which is the phenomenon observed at Tech at the start of the semester when everyone comes back to campus and a significant amount of students get sick all at once, music festivals have been notorious for being super spreaders, even in the pre-pandemic days.

Sometimes it feels like we forget that COVID-19 is not the only disease out there, so even if you have your vaccine, the chances of getting sick with something are still relatively high if you spend a whole weekend in a crowded, maskless area.

Another issue to consider is the primary attendee of Music Midtown; high school and college students flock to the festival every year to see their favorite artists and bands. It is all fun and games until they go home or back to their campus or high school and potentially spread COVID-19 to those who did not even attend the festival.

However despite all of the obvious risks, many people are still going because why not — Music Midtown is so much fun and gives students something exciting to look forward to. The music festival is super close to campus, and you get to see so many big-name artists all in one weekend for a decent price. If it is happening, it is hard to say no, and that is the risk Music Midtown is taking by putting it on in the first place. If there is a big spike in cases, don’t blame the attendees, blame the organizers.