Revealing city and state officials haven't asked for her advice in recent weeks, Dr. Emily Landon, widely regarded as one of Chicago's top coronavirus experts, bluntly stated Lollapalooza - the city's largest music festival - should likely be canceled, citing a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant.
In an interview Monday, Landon, the executive medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago Medicine, acknowledged canceling the event, set to take place this weekend, is unlikely.
"And remember how much people are motivated by money," she said. "It really is all about money. People in many cases will throw you, your health, your family's health, grandmother's health under the bus in order to make a few more dollars."
Even as Chicago saw its average daily number of new cases recently double, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, the city's health commissioner, insist Lollapalooza will go on as planned.
To enter, concert-goers must provide a printed copy of their COVID vaccine card, vaccine record or negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of entering. Landon casted doubt on whether event organizers will check attendee's vaccination records and if social distancing is possible at the full-capacity event.
"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 happening, even with, even with the pandemic..." the Chicago infectious disease expert said.
For those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, a mask is required while inside the festival at all times. But Landon said she doesn't believe it's possible for attendees at Lollapalooza to wear masks, as the concert is extremely loud and people are close to one another.
With the event set to take place in a matter of days, Landon said the best course of action is to "heed of some of the worst consequences" by taking a harm-reduction approach. The Chicago doctor outlined a number of ways to improve the event's safety including strict vaccination record enforcement, checking test results and increased social distancing.
"I understand that people really want to be done with this pandemic, but we can't just be done with infectious diseases because we want to be," Landon said.
Acknowledging that vaccinated individuals are at a low risk of contracting COVID-19, Landon advises those who attend Lollapalooza to assume they have been exposed and to take appropriate precautions, such as undergoing testing.
"I think a lot of people are going to get COVID at Lollapalooza," she stated. "The real problem is them taking it back to places that have very low vaccination rates where individuals can get very, very sick and overwhelm the health care system and have lots of excess deaths and mortality and morbidity."
Mayor Lightfoot publicly acknowledged she doesn't agree with Landon's viewpoint Monday, saying, "God bless the critics standing on the sidelines."
"If I thought for a moment that shutting down Lolla would prevent further...spread in a way that we're seeing it, then I wouldn't hesitate to do that," the mayor stated.
Despite the hesitance from some, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker revealed last week that he plans to attend Lollapalooza, saying it is "safe" for those vaccinated against COVID-19.
He added that outdoor festivals are known to be safer than those indoors in terms of spreading COVID-19, but that he still recommends people wear a mask when in a large group.
"If you feel comfortable and you can put a little distance between yourself and other people and if you're vaccinated, I might add, it's safer," Pritzker said. "Little distance and vaccinated, it's safe for you to attend something like this."