New research suggests how to hold events safely during future COVID-19 waves
New research suggests how to hold events safely during future COVID-19 waves

New research suggests how to hold events safely during future COVID-19 waves

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Same day The Austin City Limits Music Festival announced which artists will perform this yearreleased a new report on Tuesday to share suggestions on how organizers can hold major events safely during future COVID-19 waves.

Researchers know University of Texas at Austin’s COVID-19 Modeling Consortium together with local public health experts worked together on an analysis of how different safety measures, such as a masking or testing requirement, could affect the risk of infection at two types of events. They wrote that their report describes “a risk assessment framework to support event planning during COVID-19 waves.”

However, the team’s results should not come as too much of a surprise because they reinforce how beneficial pre-entry testing, evidence of vaccination, masking, and keeping things out can be, even when the spread of coronavirus is lower in society.

The researchers said they looked at two hypothetical events a month apart in Austin:

  1. A business conference with 3,000 participants was held on September 1, 2021.
  2. An outdoor festival with 50,000 participants that takes place on October 1 last year.

They said they found that requiring people to have a COVID-19 test before the event would better prevent more people from getting sick by having everyone present to prove vaccination alone. In the business conference study, for example, they said getting people to test 48 hours before it would result in an estimated 20 participants arriving infected, while a vaccination requirement would result in 30 people being expected to arrive with COVID-19.

“Shortening the test window to 24 hours before the event would further reduce the risks,” the report said.

Their results also highlighted how more strategies would better prevent COVID-19 transmission at events. When they looked at the outdoor festival hypothetically, requiring people to test, vaccinate and wear a face mask would have reduced the number of infections from the event in the four weeks after from 895 to 120.

The research also concluded that events held outdoors would be safer than indoor events. The team pointed out that although the hypothetical festival was more than 10 times as large as the imaginary business conference, “we estimate that it will only produce twice the number of infections in the community during and after the event.”

Researchers hope that these findings, along with a more detailed breakdown of the scenarios they studied, can provide organizers with a resource to check when they are planning how to prevent people from becoming ill at events.

But they admit, “Our framework makes a number of critical assumptions that may not hold for all events, especially as SARS-CoV-2 and our arsenal of medical countermeasures continue to evolve.”

It is unclear what, if any, COVID-19 protocols will be introduced at this year’s ACL Music Festival. During last year’s event, fans were either required to show proof of full vaccination or give a negative COVID-19 test before entering the festival grounds. Austin public health experts said they could only connect a total of 36 COVID-19 cases to the ACL last year.

After the city finished its first in-person South by Southwest since the pandemic beganexperts said they tracked about 100 COVID-19 cases to the March event.

Austin and Travis County are currently being considered on one low risk level for COVID-19, which does not recommend masking to anyone. Earlier this year in March, Austin Public Health announced that it would no longer use numbered stages and instead follow the CDC’s low-, medium-, and high-risk model to indicate where the coronavirus situation is locally.

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