As the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus surges around the world, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot alongside Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Alison Arwady gave the green light to a potentially disastrous superspreader event.
Over the last weekend in July, more than 100,000 people from across the country have flooded into downtown Chicago’s Grant Park for the Lollapalooza music festival. The long-running festival, which was not held last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, promises to bring in millions of dollars to the city of Chicago as well as downtown businesses. It also serves as a potential catalyst for a massive rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country.
Lollapalooza organizers, alongside local government officials, have claimed to take public health seriously. Festival-goers are required to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours in order to gain entrance to the festival, and masks are encouraged but only required in indoor spaces.
The festival is happening amid a stark increase in COVID-19 spread across Chicago and Cook County. As of this writing, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths and the positivity rate in Chicago have all experienced an increase over the previous week, according to data released by the city. In addition, CBS News reports the CDC as saying there is now “substantial” spread of COVID-19 across Cook County.
New data out of Massachusetts has also revealed that vaccinated people are capable both of catching and spreading the new Delta variant. With this new scientific find, it is becoming increasingly clear that non-essential mass gatherings, even outdoors, and especially where masks are not required, all have the potential to be sites of widespread COVID-19 transmission.
Last month, Lori Lightfoot declared racism to be a public health crisis. While that statement in and of itself is certainly true, Lightfoot’s decision to hold Lollapalooza in a city where only 36% of Black residents are vaccinated, according to city data, reveals that she has no plan to address the public health crisis of racism. In fact, she’s only adding more fuel to the fire!
If, in the coming days, Lollapalooza is revealed to be a superspreader event, the ramifications will extend far beyond Chicago. Not only will Chicago and Cook County be hit with a rise in cases from the massive throngs of people crowding into downtown and aboard public transit, but areas across the country. Many regions with lower vaccination rates than a city like Chicago will also experience surges as festival-goers return home.
The city of Chicago’s choice to hold a massive tourist attraction at this moment is a clear display of their prioritization of revenue from festivals like Lollapalooza over public health. In order to avoid another deadly wave of the pandemic, viral transmission must be taken seriously now, not later, and must be directed by the needs of the people, not profits.
Feature image: COVID-19. Image credit: PIRO4D, Pixbay.com