CHICAGO (CBS) — There is COVID confusion surrounding big festivals taking place this weekend in Chicago – some require vaccination, others not at all.
So what’s safe?
As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported Thursday night, a large-scale vegan festival is coming to Grant Park this weekend. It will not be requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test – which has some vendors rethinking their participation.
Liberation Donuts in Chicago’s West Town community was getting ready for the Vegandale festival in Grant Park weekend. The event attracts more than 15,000 people.
“It’s really appealing for vendors because it’s a chance to get in front of just a huge, huge audience,” said Natalie Slater, spokesperson for Liberation Donuts.
But Slater announced on social media that Liberation Donuts won’t be at the festival this year. That is because organizers are not requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
“At this time, we just didn’t feel comfortable participating in an event that wasn’t screening people either with a vaccine card or a negative test,” she said.
At least two other local vegan companies also chose to pull out.
“We’ll miss being there, but just we wouldn’t have felt right doing anything else,” Slater said.
While the Chicago Department of Public Health suggests a vaccination or a negative test requirement for large gatherings, event organizers ultimately have the final say — which creates some confusion.
This weekend, the Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park will follow the city’s recommendations, but no proof of vaccine will be needed to enter the Soul City Blues event in the Austin neighborhood on Sunday. The same goes for sporting events.
“I do think it’s confusing,” said Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Again, the city does have guidelines. The festivals just need to follow the guidelines.”
Wallace is concerned about large events like Vegandale, which aren’t requiring any mitigations other than masking.
“It’s a significant public health risk to have that many people together eating and socializing without layering mitigations,” Wallace said. “I think it is hard between one event and another that not everything is consistent.”
It can also be a very costly decision to pull out, as it is expensive to sign up for a booth – which is why Slater with Liberation Donuts said she doesn’t fault anyone for choosing to attend. But it just wasn’t the right choice for her doughnut shop.