Are You Ready for Lollapalooza?

Precautions and tips you need to know before attending Chicago's summer music festival

July 24, 2021

Photo courtesy of Charles Reagan Hackleman.

With eight stages and over 170 performers, Lollapalooza is expected to draw roughly 100,000 attendees from across the country for the four-day music festival. Before festival goers flock to Chicago’s Grant Park for this summer staple event, Rush experts want attendees to be prepared and take the proper safety precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19 and other dangers. 

COVID-19 crowd concerns and precautions

While Chicago is still in the moderate risk area for COVID-19 cases, the city is seeing an increase in cases and breakthrough cases. “What’s fun about these festivals is that they bring people from all over,” says Rush emergency medicine physician Carolyn Clayton, MD. “However, that means you could be standing next to someone who’s coming from a state that has a very high number of cases. Attendees need to be mindful of that and increase their awareness and be a little more cautious than you might be normally at an outdoor park.” 

Festival goers also need to be wary of crowd density and the increased danger that brings. “People will be packed tightly together singing and cheering – these aerosolizing activities carry an increased risk of transmission for COVID-19,” says Clayton. 

To mask or not to mask?

“The best protection is the vaccine,” says John Segreti, MD, Rush epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist. “But you still need to wear a mask if you can’t keep a reasonable distance from others – even if you are fully vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID-19.”

Segreti recommends maintaining the following distances from others based on your vaccination status.

  • Not vaccinated and not masked: At least six feet
  • Not vaccinated, but masked: three to six feet 
  • Vaccinated, but not masked: three to six feet 
  • Vaccinated and masked: At least three feet

“The hardest part about this pandemic is that everyone is trying to navigate their own situation and risk tolerance,” says Clayton. She recommends if you are unvaccinated, you should be in a mask at all times. The festival is requiring a negative COVID-19 test from within 72 hours for attendees who are unvaccinated, however the tests are a snapshot in time and are not always accurate. “We can’t 100 percent rely on the tests.”

Vaccinated people can still get infected. If you are vaccinated and have someone in your household who is immunocompromised or unvaccinated for whatever reason, “you really want to be considerate of that and be more mindful to wear a mask – even if you are outside,” says Clayton.

“If you’re not feeling well, even in the face of a negative test, or have any COVID-19 signs or symptoms it’s best to stay home – vaccinated or unvaccinated,” Clayton says.

Additionally, a number of after-hours concerts with Lollapalooza performers are held at other venues around the city throughout the weekend. “I would recommend masking if you’re at a tightly packed indoor venue,” says Clayton. “Your risk increases indoors, but you’re also losing all of the precautions that Lollapalooza has put in place to minimize risk.”

“If you are vaccinated, the risk of you transmitting the virus is low, but it isn’t zero,” says Segreti.

Substance dangers

This will be the first Lollapalooza since marijuana became legal in Illinois. While Clayton does not recommend the use of marijuana, she cautions those who will to be mindful of where they purchase from. “Ideally you’re buying this from a licensed dispensary so you are more confident that what you are purchasing is regulated and pure,” she says. The other issue she warns of is the use of edible marijuana – which often takes a while for the desired effects to kick in. “There’s sometimes a tendency to overtake because you are not feeling the effect you hoped for,” says Clayton. “That can often kick in all at once leading to significant side effects such as hallucinations and agitation.”

Overuse of alcohol and illegal substances is a common occurrence at music festivals. “These festivals are usually an all-day event for over 12 hours,” says Clayton. “Sometimes the alcohol can sneak up on you so it’s really important to stay hydrated and be mindful of how much you are consuming.”

Festivals often see drug use – particularly drugs that are thought to enhance the musical experience. According to Clayton, these drugs can be dangerous and should not be used for several reasons:

  • You don’t know what you are consuming and these drugs can often be cut with more harmful, life-threatening drugs like cocaine, fentanyl, ketamine and more. 
  • There can be unintended or unexpected side effects. For example, a common side effect of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy or molly, is a disruption to the body’s thermoregulatory system that can cause you to get overheated. Add in a hot summer day, with hours of dancing and little hydration – you can have serious complications ranging from hyperthermia, seizures, liver failure and death. 

Sun safety and hydration

When you’re exposed outdoors for significant periods of time in the summer heat, sun safety and hydration are crucial. Clayton recommends the following tips for those at the festival spending long periods of time in the sun: 

  • Protect your face and wear a hat 
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing
  • Apply sunscreen before you head to the festival. Pack a travel-size sunscreen to get you through the day and be sure to reapply often. Learn more sunscreen tips.
  • Remember to stay hydrated and drink water consistently throughout the day. Dehydration can often creep up on you at events like this. 
  • Take dancing breaks and rest in the shade as often as necessary.