Chicago Coronavirus

Dr. Arwady Went Undercover at Lollapalooza. Here's What She Says She Saw

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Chicago's top doctor said she went undercover at Lollapalooza last weekend to see how the festival was enforcing COVID-19 precautions and administering vaccines.

"I actually went through those gates multiple times not known," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "Like I put a hat on. I put glasses on. I put a mask on."

Arwady explained she disguised her appearance because she wanted to go through the line similar to any other concert-goer and experience how the staff checked vaccination proof.

Rather than bringing the official COVID vaccination card issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arwady said she brought a print-out from I-CARE, which was an accepted document.

"I was really pleased," Arwady said. "These pepole didn't know who I was. I was in the middle of a big crowd of other kids coming in. They stopped, they looked."

As she walked through the check-in at the gate, Arwady noted that security looked through her document and checked to make sure she had two COVID vaccine shots and from which dates.

"We saw a lot of people getting turned away if they didn't come with anything," Arwady said. "But also if the dates weren't good."

Vaccine ambassadors for Chicago were on site, Arwady added, who provided information and signed people up for at-home appointments. Those city workers tracked data, along with Lollapalooza, and found that 90% of attendees showed proof of vaccination.

"Most music festivals across the U.S., really big ones even, are not having a testing or vaccination requirement," Arwady said. "I don't think that is wise with the increase in the delta variant."

Due to the recent uptick in cases across Chicago, Lollapalooza organizers announced a mask requirement for any indoor areas on Saturday and Sunday of the festival.

Lollapalooza will took place at full capacity this past weekend, with attendees required to either be fully vaccinated against COVID or to have proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event.

One Chicago infectious diseases expert warned within the week prior that "lots of people" would contract COVID-19 at Lollapalooza this weekend, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot dismissed criticisms as coming from "critics on the sidelines."

“I think a lot of people are going to get COVID at Lollapalooza,” Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director for infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medical Center, said. “The real problem is not so much that a bunch of young people who come into Chicago getting COVID at this event. The real problem is them taking it back to places that have very low vaccination rates.

Lightfoot disagreed with Landon’s assessment of the situation, calling the physician a “critic standing on the sideline” and saying that she trusts the medical team put together by the city and festival organizers.

“God bless the critics standing on the sidelines, but I feel confident that the Lolla folks have a good, solid plan in place, and we’re obviously going to hold them accountable to make sure that the plan is enforced,” she said.

Arwady noted Tuesday that she does expect to see more COVID cases originate from Lollapalooza, but doesn't think Chicago will be enacting harsher mitigations based on current data.

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