Masks were few and far between at the first weekend of Austin City Limits Music Festival, despite organizers' best efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Driving the news: But attendees may notice changes during the second weekend, an Austin Public Health official told Axios on Monday.
- Austin environmental health officers were onsite during the festival and "identified additional opportunities for mask-zone education and enforcement for weekend 2," an agency spokesperson said in an email.
- Those modifications could mean additional signage and announcements at stages and other crowded areas, Austin Public Health explained.
What they're saying: "We recognize the challenge and commend ACL organizers for checking for negative COVID tests and/or proof of vaccine at ALL entrances including VIP as well as proper enforcement of masking indoors," the Austin Public Health spokesperson said in an email.
- "Additionally, for any issues that were identified over the weekend, we appreciate how fast ACL staff responded to concerns from Austin Public Health."
Why it matters: Austin is within the threshold for stage 3 coronavirus guidelines, but officials have held off on making the move to the loosened restrictions. It's unclear what this past weekend's crowds will mean for the city's COVID-19 cases and a return to stage 3 guidelines.
Flashback: In a press conference last Friday, public health officials said they expected few opportunities for COVID-19 spread at the festival given ACL's safety measures.
- "With the mitigation plan ACL has presented … we are anticipating that we should have a low number of cases that result from this large gathering event," said Austin-Travis County Health Authority Desmar Walkes.
- ACL required masks in certain areas, including sections near the festival's many stages.
- Attendees were also required to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the event's start.
When asked Monday about concerns that ACL could become a superspreader event, Mayor Steve Adler told KVUE: "There's always a concern," but "we think we're going to be OK."
- "The risks were weighed versus the benefit of getting some people vaccinated," Adler said, adding that the city's low positivity rate means there should be few opportunities for COVID-19 spread at the festival.
The bottom line: We won't immediately know the impact of ACL crowds, but it's clear that mask guidelines weren't followed during the festival. COVID-19 data lags because the virus' incubation period is up to 14 days.
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