Coachella’s new COVID rules are shocking, but also a sign of the times

For Coachella attendees: no mask, no vaccine, no negative test? No problem.

COACHELLA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 31: Laser Girl Show performs at Coachella Crossroads Presents: DayO...
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Even though the U.S. is still battling COVID, Coachella is doing away with many of its health mandates when the festival begins in April. Recent reports show that Coachella organizer Goldenvoice is essentially turning its festivals into pandemic fantasy lands by eschewing all preventive measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The safety guidelines on Coachella’s official website state there will be no requirement for attendees to wear masks, show proof of vaccination, or present a negative COVID test to attend. Goldenvoice attributes the lifting of these health measures to local guidelines, referring to the state of California lifting mask mandates today for vaccinated people. Masks actually haven’t been required for outdoor events, regardless of vaccination status, in the state of California since at least January 31, according to the California State government’s official website on COVID-19 information.

While Coachella’s decision is surprising, it’s not entirely final. The festival’s website states its health protocols are subject to change depending on “federal, state or local government agencies or instrumentalities, artists or the promoter.” For Coachella attendees, it means that rules at any point may revert to requiring proof of vaccination, negative COVID tests, or masks. Goldenvoice has proven in the past that its health protocols are fluid. In October 2021, four months after the festival initially sold out, Goldenvoice lifted its requirement for full vaccination in order to attend the festival, and allowed admittance to unvaccinated people with a negative COVID test received 72 hours before attending the festival. One thing Coachella hasn’t wavered from, though, is being unable to guarantee “those attending the festival will not be exposed to COVID-19.”

One caveat that could upend the lifting of mask and vaccination requirements is the artists’ influence. Since the health protocols explicitly state health measures can change, in part, depending on the artist, it leaves open the door for pro-vaccine stars to leverage their starpower to push for more stringent health measures. Billie Eilish is one of the festival’s headliners and has openly supported the vaccine. She contracted COVID-19 in August 2021 and told Howard Stern on his Sirius XM radio show, “I think if I weren’t vaccinated, I would have died.” Harry Styles is another one of Coachella’s pro-vaccine headliners who required full vaccination or negative COVID test results from all concertgoers on his Love On Tour tour last year.

By the time Coachella takes place April 15-24, we as a country will have already started our third year in the pandemic. Unfortunately, Coachella might be a vision of our future to come.