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Delta Variant Complicates Concert Going


Berkeley High School (BHS) ninth grader Zoe Glass pushed her way through the crowds at an outdoor Jonas Brothers concert on Friday, August 27. With her mask on and an intention to keep distanced from others, she said she took precautions to ensure she was safe and felt comfortable. “I’m fully vaccinated, I had a COVID-19 test the day prior. … I had at least three feet of distance between anybody not in my group,” she reported. 

Despite the current surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant, live concerts have resumed in both indoor and outdoor settings. So, what precautions are being taken? 

Ava Kurapka, an eleventh grader at BHS, also attended an outdoor concert which was held at the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco. Kurapka similarly tried to keep her distance from others and stayed masked in crowded areas. Even during a pandemic, she highly recommended seeing the indie pop group Fitz and the Tantrums in concert. “It was outdoors, I’m vaccinated, so I felt fine. I was also distanced from people,” she said. However, Kurapka would not have felt the same level of comfort indoors. 

“The chances of getting COVID-19 at an [indoor] concert are extremely high,” said Emily Lloyd, a nurse educator and specialist for the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. In Lloyd’s experience, more and more young people are being hospitalized with COVID-19. While the majority of these people might be vaccinated, Lloyd still thinks “there isn’t any excuse for people gathering in an indoor setting unless strict precautions are taken.” She suggests that concert venues should require attendees to wear masks, show proof of vaccination, and go through COVID-19 symptom screenings. 

So, what steps are venues taking to ensure the safety at concerts? Andrea Hirsig, house manager of Freight & Salvage, an indoor venue located just blocks from BHS, said that the community has been thankful for the measures they’ve put in place. Freight & Salvage, which reopened on September 9, is requiring all audience members to show proof of vaccination and wear masks upon entry in accordance with the City of Berkeley’s new health order. “The majority of Berkeley businesses that have food and drink or large crowds are going to be doing this,” Hirsig explained. “For us, the City of Berkeley’s [face coverings indoors and proof of vaccination] order was great, because it basically confirmed what we were already planning to do,” she added. Hirsig hopes the community will get used to these new requirements. 

According to their website, Oakland’s Fox Theater requires proof of vaccination, masks, and has enhanced ventilation, much like Freight & Salvage. Outdoor venues, however, vary in their COVID-19 regulations. The Shoreline Amphitheater, where Glass attended her concert, is requiring attendees to either show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test and to wear masks. The Greek Theater at the University of California, Berkeley requires either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, but no masks, and the Stern Grove Festival doesn’t require any of these, instead simply choosing to reduce its capacity. 

Though reopening venues during a surge in COVID-19 cases is questionable, local theaters are doing what they can to ensure concerts are as safe as possible. “They handled it really well, it was as safe as it could be,” said Glass.