AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Limits 2021 festival is set to kick off in two weeks, but could COVID-19 stop the event from happening?
At Austin Public Health’s weekly Q&A session Friday, Interim Director of APH Adrienne Sturrup said it will provide guidance to ACL’s organizers about “whether or not it’s safe to proceed” in the coming weeks. ACL Fest’s special events permit had not been fully approved as of Thursday, Sept. 16.
The City of Austin said this is normal though and permits for the festival have been approved in late or mid-September in previous years.
“The virus is an ever-evolving situation,” Sturrup said. “You can go to bed on a Friday night thinking that we’re on a smooth trajectory to Stage 4 and wake up on a Monday and find out that something happened over the weekend and those projections say that it’s going to take us a little bit longer.”
ACL is requiring all attendees to present either proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of the event. Austin Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said the model is based on Lollapalooza, which took place in Chicago over the summer.
“That provides a level of safety and decreases the risk that we are going to be looking at as we make our decision but that is providing mitigation to a level that in Chicago produced very little in the way of case number increases within their city,” Walkes said.
But APH said it is not planning on setting up a testing site at the festival because it “wouldn’t be an efficient practice” due to the size of the event.
The Austin Center for Events updated its special events permit process in August, including a new version of the Health and Safety Form. One of the criteria is "screening at event entrances by requiring in-person attendees to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the event."
On the ACE's website, that piece of criteria does not mention an exception if you can provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
APH must approve forms for indoor events with more than 1,000 attendees and outdoor events with more than 2,500 attendees.
Other large events have been canceled after the ACE denied its special events permit due to COVID-19. City officials told KVUE the Pecan Street Festival's permit was denied because the event was not requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test.
At the end of the day, Sturrup said it's up to the Austin community to decide “how badly do we want ACL.”
“Part of that decision is in the hands of the actions that we choose to take up into the event,” Sturrup said. “We have the control over whether or not we get to Stage 4 or even a lower stage by that time. And how can we do that? We wear our masks. We stay home if we’re sick. We use every opportunity to socially distance, and we go get that vaccine.”
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