CHICAGO — The city’s health department is investigating possible coronavirus cases connected to Market Days.
Market Days is a popular outdoor festival that routinely attracts thousands of people as they celebrate LGBTQ pride with live music, dancing and more. It was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic; there were calls by some to cancel it again this year, but it was held Aug. 6-8 in Northalsted.
The Chicago Department of Public Health is now investigating if there were any COVID-19 cases connected to the event.
Health department spokespeople did not directly answer questions about if the investigation was routine for events during the pandemic or if Market Days was being singled out. They also did not say how many cases have been connected to the fest.
“We are interested in learning more about COVID-19 transmission related to large public gatherings where people congregate in indoor and outdoor spaces,” spokespeople said in an emailed statement. “Learning more about these events will help us develop recommendations and guidance so that these events can continue to be held safely in the future.
“Due in part to this investigation, we have identified several cases among Chicago and non-Chicago, and out of state residents.”
People who attended Market Days and later tested positive for COVID-19 can self-report their case online.
Jen Gordon, a spokesperson for the Northalsted Business Alliance, which organizes Market Days, said the group worked with the health department before the festival to ensure attendees’ safety and has aided in the investigation of potential cases.
The festival had received some criticism for being held as Delta is causing a surge of cases in Chicago and across Illinois.
Howard Brown Health, Chicago’s largest LGBTQ-affirming health care provider, called for Market Days to be canceled unless it implemented a capacity limit, required attendees to wear masks and made people show proof of vaccination, among other measures.
But the city’s health department said the event could go on. Lake Alen, acting executive director of the Northalsted Business Alliance, said at the time organizers would look to the health department and not Howard Brown for guidelines on street festivals.
The Northalsted Business Alliance worked with the city health department before the festival to “provide a safe environment for festivalgoers,” encouraging people to get tested for COVID-19 or be vaccinated before attending, Gordon said.
Showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test was not required to get into the festival. But the group got almost all restaurants and bars on the street to agree not to admit people who couldn’t provide proof they were vaccinated or had a negative test, Gordon said.
The group also agreed with the health department to gather data about infections possible related to the fest, Gordon said.
“Based upon initial reports from our membership, at this point we have no reason to believe that there was any higher rate of infection related to Market Days attendees than had been occurring prior to the weekend,” Gordon said in the statement.
The organizers will email its members to remind them to report infections that could possibly be associated with Market Days so those cases can be tracked, they said.
Howard Brown Health has also emailed clients to encourage them to report their cases if they tested positive for COVID-19 after attending Market Days.
Lollapalooza, held around the same time as Market Days, caused a similar storm. Many critics called for the city to cancel the massive event, which routinely attracts 100,000 people per day.
The city allowed the music festival to go forward; afterward, officials said they’d found more than 200 attendees had gotten the virus, but they said it wasn’t a super-spreader event.
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