Health

Some experts say the 203 cases from Lollapalooza may have been undercounted

Lollapalooza may not have been the Covid success that many have named it.

The iconic music festival returned to Chicago’s Grant Park at the end of July, with around 385,000 revelers partying maskless, marking a return to pre-pandemic life.

Attendees were required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test in order to attend.

Initial reports determined vaccine and testing checks worked, as only 203 people who attended the event tested positing in the weeks after, or 0.05 percent.

The some health experts have doubts because out of state contact tracing may not be very thorough, and many vaccinated people with asymptomatic cases may never even test for the virus.

Lollapalooza drew massive crowds, over 350,000 people in total. Pictured: Machine Gun Kelly performs at the festival on July 31

Chicago's public health department continues to monitor cases linked to Lollapalooza. Pictured: Princess Nokia performs at the festival on August 1

Chicago’s public health department continues to monitor cases linked to Lollapalooza. Pictured: Princess Nokia performs at the festival on August 1

‘This work is not always completely accurate and often gives us undercounts,’ Dr Mercedes Carnethon, vice-chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told USA Today.

Carnethon said the contact tracing used to track down cases post-Lollapalooza was imprecise because tracers often can not reach people. 

Some people, especially the vaccinated, may have contracted the virus and just never have gotten tested because they were asymptomatic.

Only 58 of the 203 cases detected were among Chicago residents as well, and it is harder for local contact tracers to reach people outside of the community.

‘It was not a disaster,’ Carnethon told USA Today.

‘But I would fall short of using it as a model and strategy to hold these large events.’¬†

She said that with the way the Indian ‘Delta’ variant spreads, getting a complete count of COVID-19 cases related to Lollapalooza will be extremely hard amid a nationwide surge of the virus.

Health officials initially said the relatively low case counts were not a surprise becuase 90 percent of the crowd in attendance was vaccinated.

Lollapalooza was not a superspreading event with just 203 people testing positive, according to data released Thursday from the Chicago Department of Public Health. Some experts doubt those case counts are complete, though, and that there is no way to track all the cases tied to the event. Pictured: Chicago health commissioner Dr Allison Arwady holds a press conference about city Covid numbers

Lollapalooza was not a superspreading event with just 203 people testing positive, according to data released Thursday from the Chicago Department of Public Health. Some experts doubt those case counts are complete, though, and that there is no way to track all the cases tied to the event. Pictured: Chicago health commissioner Dr Allison Arwady holds a press conference about city Covid numbers

Chicago officials estimated that about 90 percent of Lollapalooza attendees were vaccinated. Pictured: A view of the festival stage on August 1

Chicago officials estimated that about 90 percent of Lollapalooza attendees were vaccinated. Pictured: A view of the festival stage on August 1

‘We’ve had no unexpected findings at this point,’ Dr Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a news conference last week.

‘There’s no evidence at this point of a superspreader event, and there’s no evidence of substantial impact to Chicago’s epidemiology.’

Based on estimates of the festival’s vaccination rate, the public health department calculated that about four in every 10,000 vaccinated attendees got Covid.

Among unvaccinated attendees, the risk was much higher: 16 out of every 10,000 attendees got Covid.

The city identified these Lollapalooza cases through contact tracing – asking Chicago residents who tested positive whether they’d attended the festival.

Chicago’s public health department also put out a nationwide alert, requesting other cities and states to submit information for any cases linked to Lollapalooza.

Additionally, the department conducted supplemental interviews of anyone who tested positive and attended the festival.

This process is not able to specifically prove that attendees got sick at Lollapalooza, Arwady said.

Attendees may also have been infected at bars and restaurants or other high-risk locations outside the festival.

In addition to contact tracing, the city public health department is monitoring data from local hospitals to identify any rise in Covid symptoms.

‘We did not see increases or additional cases coming in through the emergency department,’ Arwady said.

Arwady noted that 13 of the Chicago residents who tested positive said they attended Lollapalooza after starting to experience symptoms – making it likely that they infected others at the festival.

Even if you’re vaccinated, Arwady said, it’s still important to stay home and get tested if you experience Covid symptoms.

The Chicago public health department will continue to monitor cases linked to Lollapalooza.

‘I expect we may see some more positives come in,’ Arwady said – particularly from other public health departments outside the city and state.

However, Arwady is confident that ‘we would have seen a surge if we were going to see a surge, at this point.’


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