We’ll know soon — in less than a week — whether the three-day Country Jam music festival in Mack was a local super-spreader event for the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
“We’re on COVID Country Jam watch,” Mesa County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Kuhr said Monday.
For those wondering how a giant music festival could be allowed to carry on in the midst of a local surge of the Delta variant, the simple answer is that it didn’t violate guidance set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials were leery and warned of the risk the festival posed. They put the word out through the festival’s website and on country music stations that attendees should take precautions because of Mesa County’s status as a COVID hot spot.
Country Jam urged concert-goers to get vaccines or tested for COVID-19 prior to the event. Masks and social distancing were encouraged, but photos reveal a concert crowd unconcerned about taking such measures.
Kuhr is hopeful that the outdoor venue provided enough natural ventilation to lower the risk of transmission.
“We only were aware of one positive case that was associated with JUCO and the stadium was full on that day,” he said.
To transmit COVID, an infected person generally has to be within six feet of another person for 15 minutes or more, meaning transmission is most likely in groups of people who are acquaintances. Kuhr’s biggest concern was for the 44,000 people camping on the venue site.
The Daily Beast website profiled the festival and the health risks it posed. One local physician shared his fear that it will only make a bad situation (high prevalence of the Delta variant in a low-vaccination county) worse.
Kuhr is worried that the July 4 long weekend could present a “double whammy” because it comes on the heels of the festival. If concert-goers did get the virus, they would be contagious this coming weekend.
“Friends and family gatherings have always been our biggest hot spot,” he said. Country Jam attendees should be extra cautious.
“If you have mild symptoms of anything, don’t mistake it for an allergy. Know if you’re infectious before you go to a gathering.”
Country Jam will provide some data on whether large, outdoor venues pose a bigger-than-normal danger or, perhaps, just how transmissible the Delta variant is.
Kuhr has a hunch that Mesa County is approaching a threshold for herd immunity. Two unique groups, those who have been infected and — those who have been vaccinated — represent about 72% of the county’s population. That’s in the neighborhood of what medical experts say is needed for infection rates to wane.
Country Jam could essentially be The Experiment Nobody Wanted but with results everyone wants to see.
In the coming five days or so, Mesa County’s epidemiological team will start to piece together what new cases have in common. If it’s Country Jam, there will be a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks saying, “We told you so.”