Heading into Lollapalooza weekend in Chicago, concertgoers are anxiously awaiting their favorite artists while infectious disease experts are bracing themselves for a spike in COVID-19 infections they anticipate will hit the week after next, said infectious disease experts Dr. Tina Tan and Dr. Robert Murphy.
“It’s a recipe for disaster,” said Tan, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a pediatrician at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
“You have people coming in all over from U.S., and even though the organizers are taking some efforts to mitigate infections, I don’t know how they’re going to enforce mask wearing, social distancing, handwashing. Not to mention some people bring their younger kids under 12 who can’t be vaccinated, and some of those parents are not vaccinated themselves.”
‘It’s spinning out of control’
“The numbers are going up,” said Murphy, executive director of Northwestern’s Institute for Global Health. “When the case numbers go up, within two to three weeks, hospitalizations will go up. Then the ICU admissions increase, and then the death rate goes up. It’s spinning out of control.
“The organizers have instituted a vaccine requirement or a negative COVID test that is no more than 72 hours old, all this helps, but it’s just not enough when you’re in the middle of a pandemic.
“We haven’t even gotten to the middle of this pandemic yet. This is just going to keep being wave after wave until we all get immunity or vaccinated or both.”
‘Voluntary system didn’t work’
Murphy said the current spike in national COVID cases is due to a lack of vaccinations including younger people who are eligible to receive the vaccines.
“This current wave is because, for the first time, a single group of people refused to get vaccinated,” Murphy said. “Even though vaccines are effective, safe, available and free, they’ve refused. On May 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) loosened its guidelines and recommended that vaccinated persons no longer needed masks indoors or outdoors, whereas the unvaccinated should continue to wear masks and socially distance from others. The CDC guidance recommendation was voluntary, and that didn’t work because many of the unvaccinated people cheated by not wearing masks or socially distancing; this is what primarily is really driving the infection rates up.”
“The voluntary system didn’t work. What this will lead to is mandated vaccinations for employment, school, travel, social events and other public and private venues. We tried the carrot approach, now we have to utilize the stick approach.”
Holding out hope
“If everyone attending Lollapalooza is vaccinated or has a negative test, that’ll keep the numbers lower,” Murphy said. “And I hope that happens. Maybe it’s even made a lot of younger people get vaccinated in order to come.”