The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has recently announced that come April, they are waiving mask mandates, vaccination requirements, and testing protocols for festival-goers. After two years of absence and three cancellations, the festival committees have decided to move forward with the event despite the threat it poses to increasing infection rates.
With an average crowd of 250,000 people, the festival is by all means a high volume event that poses an extreme threat to the still very prevalent and contagious COVID-19. The festival attracts a diverse crowd from all around the world, each one bringing with them possible illnesses from various regions. The outdoor venue provides little solace against the tightly packed crowds that surge against the stages, share food, drinks, and rides, and even sleep in tents together.
“By entering the festival, attendees voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and confirm that they will adhere to local quarantine mandates and the CDC quarantine requirements,” quotes Coachella’s website.
While that message warns attendees about the potential risk posed, they do nothing to account for the risk posed to the broader community of people who will ultimately be exposed by attendees and the lackadaisical approach to pandemic prevention.
The probability of attendees waiting the recommended time period before obtaining a PCR test following the conclusion of the event is basically nonexistent. The festival themselves says nothing about protocols following the event aside from lightly encouraging all parties to adhere to quarantine mandates.
This lack of preventative measures speaks volumes to the newly accepted belief that COVID is akin in severity to the flu. While that may be true for young, healthy, fully vaccinated individuals, the risks posed to those with compromised immune systems as well as people without the resources or ability to quarantine themselves remain woefully overlooked. No one's recreation should threaten others' livelihood.
It is inherently selfish for the privileged festival-goers to decide that their own personal fun holds precedence over the safety and livelihood of a less privileged population. Not everyone has the means to quarantine safely and effectively, and it's incredibly ignorant to expose people to the virus, especially when the consequences disproportionately affect the involuntary party.
Perhaps the most upsetting part of this is that this is an active choice to prioritize luxury and convenience over safety. After a 2020 cancellation, Lollapalooza returned in 2021 but with mask mandates for unvaccinated attendees and proof of full vaccination or evidence of negative test results. The infection rates were surprisingly low, with a rate of about 4 known cases per 10,000 vaccinated attendees, and 16 known cases per 10,000 unvaccinated attendees, although there is no recorded number of tests taken post attendance.
In choosing to waive all precautionary measures, these corporations are actively prioritizing profits over safety, health, and prevention. One of the features of this pandemic and why it has persisted for so long is the case of the superspreader. Many events, whether White House lawn parties or motorcycle rallies, have effectively spread the virus at an unmatched speed. The illusion of normalcy guides ill-informed decisions like Coachella’s that will only prove to postpone a full end to the pandemic.
The corporation that made these decisions is not the only party that should be held accountable. Coachella’s 2022 lineup is filled with the biggest names in music, and most of them have been outspoken in their advocacy for strict preventative measures regarding COVID-19. Harry Styles, for example, postponed his Love on Tour to prevent the spread and required vaccination or negative tests when the tour resumed. Additionally, after contracting the virus, Billie Eilish, another major headliner, further advocated for the vaccine and credited it as the one thing that saved her life. Even Lil' Baby was featured on a song with Tee Grizzley that praised the COVID quarantine and mentioned the effective use of facemasks. Clearly hypocritical, how can these artists be so passionate about prevention yet perform on such a dangerous stage?
This year’s Coachella festival will only prove to lengthen the already-long COVID-19 pandemic. Such an ignorant lack of mask mandates and vaccine requirements demonstrates that the corporation running the festival disregards any attempt at safety and prevention. Instead, they are strictly focused on making money at one of the world’s largest music festivals.