NORTHALSTED — The city’s largest LGBTQ-affirming health care provider is calling on the organizers of Chicago’s Pride Parade and Market Days to implement strict coronavirus safety precautions as the city’s outbreak worsens.
Howard Brown Health released a statement Wednesday requesting Market Days and the Pride Parade implement a series of precautions — like capacity limits and mask requirements — as Chicago’s positivity rate and average number of daily new cases has spiked in recent weeks and surges are being seen around the country.
Market Days is scheduled for Aug. 6-8 and the Pride Parade for Oct. 3.
“The recent spikes in COVID-19 infections in neighboring states are alarming, and history shows Chicago will not be immune to a surge,” said David Ernesto Munar, president and CEO of Howard Brown. “I’m especially concerned about communities on the South and West sides of the city, which have been impacted the most by the pandemic.”
Munar warned “future lockdowns are assured unless we undertake mitigation strategies now.”
In addition to capacity limits and mask requirements, Howard Brown recommends the events adhere to strict social distancing measures and require attendees show proof they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.
As of now, there are no listed mask or vaccine requirements for either event.
If event producers are unable to implement these safety precautions, the events should be canceled or rescheduled, according to Howard Brown.
Market Days was canceled last year by the coronavirus pandemic, and local business owners have looked forward to the festival as a way to recover from more than a year of closures and capacity limits.
Lake Alen, acting executive director of the Northalsted Business Alliance, which organizes the annual Market Days festival, said the organization will look to the city and not Howard Brown for guidelines on street festivals.
“We will follow all city guidelines for outdoor street fests,” Alen said.
When asked about Market Days on Tuesday, health Commissioner Dr. Alison Arwady said the city “really tries to keep track of those” summer festivals.
“[We] have been talking and thinking about what we can do to educate and make sure there’s information out in advance of” Market Days, Arwady said. “But we do that for a whole variety of things and there are lots of settings, especially outdoors in the summer, where Chicagoans are gathering. And if folks are vaccinated, risk is low.”
The organizer of the 2021 Pride Parade could not immediately be reached for comment.
Howard Brown’s recommendations for the outdoor events comes after the organization announced it’s pulling out of participating in all public events, including Market Days, the Bud Billiken Parade, the Pride Parade and the organization’s annual Halloween fundraiser, the Big Orange Ball.
“The pandemic is far from over, and Chicago businesses need to act now to prevent further spikes in severe COVID-19 disease that can lead to hospitalizations or death,” said Dr. Cathy Creticos, director of Infectious Diseases at Howard Brown.
A similar storm has brewed over Lollapalooza, which kicks off Thursday at Grant Park. The festival routinely attracts 100,000 people per day, fueling concerns it could turn into a super-spreader event.
Some have called for Lollapalooza to be canceled, and Arwady acknowledged Tuesday there will likely be COVID-19 cases associated with the festival.
COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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