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Lollapalooza Had More Than 385,000 People, Officials Announce After Lightfoot Defended Holding Fest During Pandemic

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Lollapalooza is set to be the biggest festival in the world this year. She's faced criticism for allowing it as Delta surges around the country.

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CHICAGO — More than 385,000 attended Lollapalooza in Chicago this weekend, officials announced Monday.

Many have criticized Chicago leaders for allowing the four-day festival, worried it could turn into a super-spreader event as Delta has driven another wave of coronavirus cases around the United States. Chicago’s case rate and positivity rate have been on the rise, and Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the health department, said last week she does expect to see COVID-19 cases associated with Lolla.

In all, at least 385,000 people attended, though official attendance is still being calculated, a police official said at a Monday morning news conference. There were 19 people arrested, seven people cited and at least 102 people taken to hospitals from the festival.

“It was one of the safest Lollapaloozas we’ve put on in recent years,” First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter said. “No major incidents inside the park or outside the park.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last week Lolla is set to be the biggest festival in the world this year.

The festival — which ran Thursday to Sunday — came as experts are ringing alarm bells about the spread of COVID-19’s Delta variant. Chicago had to bring back its indoor mask recommendation Friday as the city is seeing substantial community transmission.

Photos of the massive, tightly packed crowds at the festival, on the CTA and around the Downtown area were widely shared online, adding fuel to people’s concerns.

Lightfoot defended the festival in a rare Sunday news conference amid the mounting criticism.

“I understand the fascination with Lolla, but the fact is, in this city, … we’ve been able to open but do it with care because of the vaccinations,” Lightfoot said.

Only about 52 percent of all Chicagoans are fully vaccinated, according to city data.

It will take some time to see if the festival can be tied to any jumps in Chicago’s coronavirus numbers, as the virus can incubate in a person for two to 14 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The mayor said street festivals have been held and baseball games played at Sox Park and Wrigley Field without them turning into super-spreader events.

Those events are significantly smaller than Lollapalooza, though. For example, Sox Park reaches capacity at about 40,600 people, while a representative for Lolla said the festival saw about 100,000 people per day.

Many shared photos of “L” trains jam-packed with maskless people during Lollapalooza, spurring concerns those riders are increasing the risk of transmission because they’re indoors — and putting CTA workers at risk.

The festival required attendees to show proof they’re fully vaccinated or to show they had a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of attending. People who weren’t fully vaccinated were required to wear masks, though it’s not clear how that was enforced.

Notably, a Dutch music festival now linked to 1,000 coronavirus cases had even stricter requirements: proof of vaccination or a negative test within 40 hours of festival attendance.

Dr. Emily Landon, who’s regularly been called upon by the city and state to speak at coronavirus news conferences, told NBC before the festival that it should likely be canceled or have stiffer safety restrictions.

Lightfoot emphasized the vast majority of people attending Lollapalooza showed proof they’re fully vaccinated, according to the festival, while the COVID-19 variant is hitting unvaccinated communities the hardest.

Lightfoot and Arwady said 97 percent of Chicagoans who have been hospitalized with or died from COVID-19 since January were not fully vaccinated.

“The unvaccinated are the people who are at risk” as Delta spreads, Lightfoot said. “They’re not only putting themselves at risk; they’re putting their family at risk.”

Hospitalizations for and deaths from COVID-19 remain low in Chicago.

But Arwady said she does expect to see those numbers go up as cases do due to Delta.

The Washington Post obtained internal CDC documents that say the Delta variant is as infectious as chickenpox, which is highly contagious, and is even more contagious than the common cold, flu and Ebola.

New evidence also shows the variant can even be easily spread by fully vaccinated people, according to the CDC documents. That’s different from past variants, as vaccinated people who had those did not appear to spread the virus as easily.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told The New York Times on Friday that new research shows even people who are fully vaccinated have tremendous amounts of the virus in their nose and throat.

And the internal CDC documents also highlighted studies from Canada, Singapore and Scotland that suggest the Delta variant may increase the risk of someone needing to be hospitalized or dying, according to the Washington Post.

Still, breakthrough cases remain rare among fully vaccinated people, and the vaccines being used in the United States remain largely effective at preventing serious illness and death.


• In Illinois, about 6.5 million people of all ages — or 51.06 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccine shots, according to state data.

• Across the state, 27,396 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 13,290,344 vaccine doses of the 14,948,895 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.4 million Chicagoans — or 52.2 percent of all residents — have gotten fully vaccinated. About 58.5 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

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.

The numbers:

• Eleven Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Friday.

• At least 23,451 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,479 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 5,608 cases since Friday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,425,219.

• Since Friday, 137,359 tests were reported statewide. In all, 26,960,921 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate was at 4.3 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests. It was at 4 percent Friday.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 4.9 percent. It was at 4.7 percent Friday.

• As of Sunday night, 212 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 84 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, one death was reported since Friday. There have been at least 5,506 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of one death per day, a 40 percent decrease from the week prior.

• Chicago has had 842 confirmed cases reported since Friday. It’s had a total of 290,566 confirmed cases. An average of 206 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 58 percent increase from the week prior.

• At the same time, testing has increased 6 percent since a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 3.1 percent, up from 2 percent the week prior.

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