For their 2022 events, the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals will not require partygoers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, to mask up, or to attend having first received a negative COVID-19 test. That’s right: Organizers have scrapped all COVID-19 precautions.
Coachella is undoubtedly one of the most renowned music festivals in the U.S., if not the world. Before a string of pandemic-related cancellations, the festival was last attended by 135,000 people in 2019. In 2022, it’s set to take place in its usual location of Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, across the weekends of April 15–17 and April 22–24. It’s safe to say that festival fans are absolutely buzzing for Coachella 2022. Particularly with this year’s headliners being artists like Billie Eilish and Harry Styles. But how will having no COVID precautions affect the festivals this year? That remains to be seen.
Despite the new rules, festival organizers have acknowledged the obvious risks. “There is an inherent and elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 in any public place or place where people are present and there is no guarantee, express or implied, that those attending the festival will not be exposed to COVID-19,” a statement on Coachella’s website reads. The revised rules have also been rolled out to Coachella’s sister festival, Stagecoach, an outdoor country music festival taking place in the same location on the last weekend of April. In a festival admission update on the Stagecoach Twitter account, organizers wrote: “As we prepare to spend an incredible weekend in the desert together we are announcing that there will be no vaccination, testing, or masking requirements at Stagecoach 2022, in accordance with local guidelines.”
The festival organizers’ strong stance comes despite the state of California’s official public health recommendations, which advise that the attendees of “outdoor mega events”—meaning music festivals, food festivals, marathons, parades, and car shows—should preferably be fully vaccinated and have achieved a negative COVID-19 test. The recommendations also suggest that said attendees provide proof of vaccination via verification options in the CDPH Vaccine Record Guidelines & Standards and follow CDPH Guidance for Face Coverings by wearing masks when occupying indoor areas including restrooms, restaurants, and shops. However, these are recommendations, not official rules or requirements—hence Coachella and Stagecoach choosing to forego them.
The announcement of the new rules yesterday has drawn criticism, particularly on Twitter. Many have been quick to circulate memes about how the virus is set to “boom” at the event, with one user saying: “Well, I guess we now know where ground zero for the next variant is going to be.” However, there have been others who have sided with festival organizers, considering many other parts of the U.S. have been lifting COVID-19 restrictions. “These comments are odd. Everyone is lifting restrictions and mandates,” one user wrote. There’s some truth to this statement. Several U.S. states have been rolling back mask mandates or announcing plans to do so. Even large establishments such as the New York Stock Exchange and Disney World have also recently scrapped mask mandates.