Update 3/10/2020: Subsequent to the publication of this article, organizers decided to move the 2020 festival to October. Please see this post for more information.
Events around the world continue to announce delays or cancelations due to Coronavirus fears–including, most recently, the large music festival Ultra, held in Miami–but, so far, the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals appear immune.
At a Thursday press conference, officials from Riverside County, Palm Springs, and around the Coachella Valley gathered to address public concerns.
“Residents and travelers to our region should know that the situation is safe,” Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez told reporters. Other officials confirmed that “proactive measures are being taken” across the region to avoid the spread of the virus.
Goldenvoice, the organizer of both festivals, attempted to further quell fears and maintain a sense of normalcy by releasing set times for the Stagecoach festival shortly after the press conference.
“It is still over five weeks before visitors will make their way to Indio to attend a series of concerts here,” reads a statement issued by the municipality where Coachella and Stagecoach take place. “The City of Indio is actively monitoring input from local, state, and national health officials to assess the health risks of COVID-19 and update those risks to stakeholders.”
As of now, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties have not taken the step of declaring coronavirus public health emergencies. There have been no cases of the illness reported in the counties and, according to Perez, “the risk is low.”
Nonetheless, officials did leave open the possibility that, if the COVID-19 situation takes a dramatic turn for the worse, they might reassess their position. KESQ reports that Riverside County Public Health Officer, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, stated that, if there’s an urgent threat that demands Coachella be canceled, he has the authority to do it.
“I would not take that action lightly. We’d rather work with them, rather than impose that on them,” Kaiser added.
If a cancelation does occur, it would likely be a major financial hit to Goldenvoice, particularly if they opt to cancel now at the peak of Coronavirus panic, only to have the outbreak quickly come under control.
“We’re in this gray area right now where events are getting canceled preemptively, before we know how widespread the problem is. Events like major music festivals usually carry some kind of insurance. But I can definitely see insurance companies pushing back if a festival canceled, then the situation got less severe the next week, or it turned out the illness wasn’t as dangerous as people thought,” Aaron Goldstein, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney, told Rolling Stone. “Yet there’s also a phenomenon with decision-makers where no one wants to be the one person who underestimated the risk. No one wants to be the person blamed for spreading coronavirus to thousands.”
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