Two of the country’s largest music festivals — Coachella and its sister event, Stagecoach — will drop all COVID-19 precautions when they are held in April.
“There will be no vaccination, testing or masking requirements,” the Stagecoach Country Music Festival, scheduled for April 29-May 1, tweeted Tuesday. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, to be held on consecutive weekends April 15-17 and April 22-24, did not make a similar announcement, but updated its “Health & Safety Rules” web page to read: “In accordance with local guidelines, there will be no vaccination, testing or masking requirements at Coachella 2022.”
Both festivals are held in Indio, Calif., and are run by Goldenvoice, a unit of AEG Presents.
Neither festival has been held since 2019 due to the pandemic. Last fall, the festivals had said the 2022 events would require either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of admission.
COVID cases have been falling sharply in California as the omicron surge recedes, and the state dropped its strict indoor mask mandate Tuesday. According to data from the California Department of Public Health, the test positivity rate was 5.7% as of Tuesday, down from 26% a month ago, and the number of hospitalized patients has fallen by half over the past month.
Still, the festivals’ move feels premature to some. Dropping all restrictions “just sounds like a recipe for trouble,” Richard Carpiano, a public health expert and public policy professor at UC Riverside, told the Southern California News Group.
The festivals’ websites allowed that requirements may still change, “in accordance with applicable public health conditions as of the date of the event and which may change at any time as determined by federal, state or local government agencies or instrumentalities, artists or the promoter.”
They also included the warning: “COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. There is an inherent and elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 in any public place or place where people are present and there is no guarantee, express or implied, that those attending the festival will not be exposed to COVID-19.”
This year’s Coachella headliners are Harry Styles, Billy Eilish and Ye (aka Kanye West), while Stagecoach features Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett. In 2019, Coachella drew about 150,000 concertgoers over two weekends, while Stagecoach drew about 80,000.
After COVID-19 caused a wave of concert cancellations in 2020, a handful of major festivals resumed last year. Chicago hosted Lollapalooza last summer, and San Francisco held Outside Lands in the fall. Both required proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, and there were no major outbreaks reported coming from either event.