Coachella, Stagecoach canceled for 2020

Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser signed an order Wednesday canceling the popular music festivals, citing concerns over a possible surge of coronavirus cases in the fall.

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Beyonce performs during the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, April 14, 2018.

Beyonce performs during the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, April 14, 2018.

The 2020 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its country music counterpart Stagecoach are canceled, Riverside County public health officials have announced.

Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser signed an order Wednesday canceling the popular music festivals, citing concerns over a possible surge of coronavirus cases in the fall.

Goldenvoice, the Los Angeles-based company that produces the music festivals over three weekends in April, had previously announced the postponement of both festivals due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

“I am concerned as indications grow that COVID-19 could worsen in the fall,” Kaiser said in a statement. “In addition, events like Coachella and Stagecoach would fall under Governor Newsom’s Stage 4, which he has previously stated would require treatments or a vaccine to enter. Given the projected circumstances and potential, I would not be comfortable moving forward.

“These decisions are not taken lightly with the knowledge that many people will be impacted. My first priority is the health of the community.”

Travis Scott, Frank Ocean and Rage Against the Machine were set to headline Coachella, which was rescheduled for Oct. 9-11 and 16-18 at the Empire Polo Club in Indio. The Stagecoach lineup included Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood, Eric Church, Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, ZZ Top and Alan Jackson.

County health officials said in a statement that they’d spoken with Goldenvoice officials.

“After consulting with our public health officer and local leaders from the City of Indio and Goldenvoice, and with continued importance on public health, it was decided that postponing the concert series was appropriate and necessary,” said V. Manuel Perez, Fourth District supervisor, in a statement.

Shortly after the county’s cancellation announcement was made on Wednesday, Goldenvoice had yet to post a notice on its Coachella and Stagecoach websites, and no information on refunds was immediately available.

Pandemic has ‘changed life as we know it’

The music festivals aren’t the first major events to be canceled due to the ongoing health care crisis. For the first time in its 98-year history, the legendary Hollywood Bowl is canceling its summer season. Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre canceled its 2020 season for the first time in 90 years. And Barcelona festival Primavera Sound announced a new 2021 lineup after initially postponing the event.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said concerts, sports events and large-scale gatherings won’t be allowed until Stage 4 of the pandemic recovery. That stage, per state presentations, will require therapeutics, or treatments for the virus. Large venues are then to “gradually open” at a “pace consistent with public health and safety.”

Brandon Brown, a professor at the Center for Health Communities at University of California, Riverside, said that Dr. Anthony Fauci’s prediction of a second wave of infection this winter is not a good sign for the music industry.

“The current pandemic has changed life as we know it,” Brown said. “Those attending large gatherings in the immediate future may need to pass temperature checks, don masks, keep a minimal physical distance, and have other precautions when attending events. But before we can think about events such as these that bring thousands together, we need to get the majority of the U.S. back to work.”

Fauci said a vaccine may be ready in 12 to 18 months. Remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug from American biotech firm Gilead Sciences, is now being tested as a possible COVID-19 treatment. Brown said that might help make large gatherings possible sooner than expected.

“If we are able to identify a drug that can successfully treat COVID-19, as in if we get infected and the treatment cures us, it would definitely help move us forward to steps 3 and 4,” Brown said.

Goldenvoice rescheduled both festivals in March after Kaiser ordered their cancellation, citing “concerns about the possible health risks” because of coronavirus, according to an email from county spokeswoman Brooke Frederico.

While the annual festivals introduce visitors to the beauty and amenities of the Coachella Valley, Indio Mayor Glenn Miller said in a statement at the time of their postponement that “the potential health risks of holding a gathering of a large size must be considered, with the safety of our community being top of mind.”

Large gatherings across the U.S. played a “notable role” in the spread of COVID-19 during its initial outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat specifically noted Mardi Gras celebrations with more than 1 million attendees in Louisiana, plus a Boston conference and Georgia funeral that each drew more than 100 people, in a report about its introduction to the U.S.

Organizers had said ticketholders would be notified on how to obtain a refund if they were unable to attend the later dates. All purchases for the April dates would be honored in October, according to Goldenvoice.

Music festivals impact valley economy

The music festivals have brought tens of thousands of people to the California desert each spring, filling hotels and boosting the local economy. Combined, they are believed to generate at least $400 million in local economic impact.

Already this year, the cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in nearby Indian Wells put more than $400 million in tourism-related business on the line, dealing a significant blow to Coachella Valley hotels, restaurants and local governments in this seasonal destination.

In 2019, the city of Indio received about $3 million from the Coachella music festival, around two-thirds of which was from ticket surcharges and another $1 million from associated sales tax revenues and transient occupancy taxes from campers.

The 2017 Coachella festival drew about 250,000 visitors to both weekends, plus another 75,000 people for the following week’s Stagecoach Country Music Festival. The combined 2017 regional economic impact exceeded $403 million, according to the 2017 report from the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Several local tourism and economics experts could not provide data on how many residents have festival-related jobs. But overall, one in four jobs in the valley is linked to tourism, according to the visitors bureau.

Scott White, CEO of the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, previously told The Desert Sun that he was thrilled to see the music festivals postponed instead of canceled outright. While the tourism dollars that typically flow heavily into the valley during March and April — the highest-generating revenue months of the year — took a hit, more could have flowed in October.


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