Riot Fest Going Ahead With COVID Vaccine Or Negative Test Requirement; Vaccines Made Available To All On Site

CHICAGO (CBS) — There are signs that things are getting back to normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic – at least in some respects.

More festivals are moving forward – albeit with asterisks. Last year, Riot Fest announced it was, “moving… to September 17-19, 2021.” Those are dates we can now call Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – and there is also a preview party on Thursday.

But as CBS 2’s Meredith Barack reported, those who come to Riot Fest in Douglass Park must either present proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of entering.

Meanwhile, people who want to get vaccinated may do so right on site.

“I want to be safe and take care of my family and friends,” said Jorge Ibarra.

Ibarra was among those who stopped by a tent outside Riot Fest before the gates opened and the bass was booming.

He had been wanting to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and while he won’t be fully protected during the three-day musical event, he feels better after having had the shot.

“I want to have my distance and everything,” Ibarra said.

Jennifer Sandoval hopes to see more people like Ibarra throughout the weekend. She is a vaccine coordinator for St. Anthony Hospital.

“Our primary goal is to provide vaccinations and answer any questions that community members might have,” Sandoval said.

The team from St. Anthony is seated right next to a COVID testing table, where you can get a test – but it will cost you $45.

That is why Alex Love opted to get the free vaccine.

“To save money,” Love said. “I didn’t really want it, honestly, but if it makes Riot Fest easier, then I’m OK with getting it.”

Both Love and Ibarra will have to get tested again if they come back for shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, as they are not yet fully vaccinated with just one shot.

Riot Fest organizers say a person’s last dose must be administered no later than two weeks prior to the event.

The Chicago Department of Public Health suggests a vaccination or a negative test requirement for large gatherings, but event organizers ultimately have the final say.

Last weekend, the Pitchfork Music Festival followed the city’s recommendations. However, the Soul City Blues event in Austin did not require proof of vaccine to attend.

Sandoval is hopeful that their presence may change the minds of some concertgoers, and even nearby residents, who have been hesitant to get the shot.

“As a young person myself, it’s important for me to be able to tell another young person I’m your age, I got vaccinated, it’s safe for you to get vaccinated as well, and to protect those that are at home and that we’re hanging out with,” Sandoval said.

It’s not just concertgoers who are able to get the vaccine here this weekend. Only 54 percent of residents in the West Side ZIP code in which Douglass Park is located are fully vaccinated.

Anyone is welcome to walk up and get a shot.

Meanwhile, the Hyde Park Jazz Fest is next weekend at Midway Plaisance Park. Organizers there will use the honor system approach – asking the unvaccinated to take a COVID test – but they won’t ask for proof, and they will encourage everyone to wear a mask.

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