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Why did Lollapalooza go forward in a pandemic? It’s about the money

Our elected officials stared down warnings from respected health experts like Dr. Emily Landon, who said a mass gathering like Lolla, even outdoors, was unsafe.

Thousands of people fill out the lawn in front of the Lake Shore and T-Mobile stages. 
Thousands of people fill out the lawn in front of the Lake Shore and T-Mobile stages. 
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Lollapalooza is on the books. Now ahead, comes the major COVID-19 outbreak, super-spreader style. That’s not just the likely outcome of Chicago’s just concluded four-day music festival. It’s a certainty.

It will be fueled by the extremely dangerous Delta coronavirus variant and ushered in by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who implacably declared the show must go on, under, they assured, the tightest of restrictions.

Concert-goers were required to produce their proof-of-vaccination cards, or evidence of a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of entering the show. The unvaccinated were required to wear face masks. And no worries, an outdoor event is much safer in a pandemic.

So party on, they cheered, at a time when the state’s COVID-19 positivity numbers are at their highest point in months.

On Friday, Cook County Health officials said they now recommend “‘universal masking” in all indoor public spaces, due to what the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention called “substantial” COVID-19 transmission.

Our elected officials stared down warnings from respected health experts like Dr. Emily Landon, who said a mass gathering like Lolla, even outdoors, was unsafe.

“So I think continuing to have Lolla at that level of capacity was a bad idea even before there was a pandemic, and I’m shocked that we’ve agreed to go back to that same level of capacity, ” Landon, the executive medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medicine, said last Monday in an interview with NBC-5 Chicago.

You don’t need the experts. Just look at those overhead news videos of the monster crowds in Grant Park, knee to jowl, shouting and singing their little hearts out.

Watch, as I did, festival-goers flooding the city’s trains, mask less, on their way to the fun and frolic. And take a gander at the photos and videos of hundreds of thousands of happy, bare faces at the party.

For four days, 100,000 people a day, a huge, sweaty swath of humanity, will pack Grant Park for hours on end, day into night.

On the Monday morning after, questions remain.

How many of those young revelers presented real, valid paperwork? The FBI and watchdog groups have been calling out the proliferation of fake vaccination cards for months.

How many tested negative one day, then were infected the next?

What happened to the old Lori Lightfoot? The Lightfoot who, last year, sternly tweeted, scolded, even threatened us to obey the COVID rules, for our own good and for the sake of our lives?

On Day 1 of the festival, its Twitter feed crowed: “Great job, Lollapalooza fans! More than 90% of you showed us your proof of vaccination today!” Another 8% of attendees presented “proof” of a negative COVID test, the festival’s sponsors reported, and 600 were turned away because they had no paperwork.

Meanwhile, a Chicago Sun-Times photographer captured signs posted at the festival’s main entrance that read: “An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public space where people are present.” By attending Lollapalooza, the sign advises, “you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19,” which “can lead to severe illness and death.”

They’ve got the numbers but made sure to cover their patooties. Just in case.

One final question: Why was Lollapalooza allowed to go forward? That one is easy. It’s about the money, honey.

Follow Laura Washington on Twitter @mediadervish

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