As more people get Covid-19 vaccines, you may be wondering whether hearing live music in person again is safe.
Coronavirus can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and others breathe in those droplets, and by accumulating in or flowing through air. You can get coronavirus from contaminated surfaces, too, but this isn’t the primary mode of transmission, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The risk of transmission increases when people are near crowds or indoors and when those places are poorly ventilated, the CDC has said. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people should avoid medium or large gatherings, but if you decide to attend a concert, here’s what you should know.
Before you go to a concert
Call the venue or check its website to learn whether it is complying with CDC guidelines for events and gatherings, or with similar precautions of the government local to the concert. Important safety practices to ask about include physical distancing, constant mask wearing, sanitization between events, and accessible areas for washing or sanitizing your hands.
Risk depends on the location of the venue, too. Anything outdoors is much safer than indoor events, said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
“A larger venue where there is limited capacity is going to be safer than a small space with a lot of people crowded together,” Wen said.
For indoor concerts, ask “how well ventilated these places are going to be,” said Dr. Ada Stewart, a family physician with Cooperative Health in Columbia, South Carolina, and the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Signs of a well-ventilated room include the ability to run fans and open windows or doors. High ceilings and portable air cleaners that have HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters also help.
If relevant staff aren’t able to answer questions about these aspects of ventilation, “assume that it’s probably not well ventilated, and then make sure (they) have other mitigation measures,” Wen said. “You definitely want to make sure masks are in place. You ideally would want 10 feet of distancing and not just 6 feet of distancing. And if that’s not able to be done, I wouldn’t go unless you’re vaccinated.”
If you’re traveling long distance
Unvaccinated people are still advised by the CDC to stay home, but those who decide to travel should do the following, according to the CDC:
• Get tested for coronavirus one to three days beforehand.
• If traveling on public transportation, wear a mask at all times. If you’re driving, wear a mask during stops for food, gas or restroom breaks.
• Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
• Before and after stops, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
• Three to five days after your trip, get tested again. Regardless of your result, self-quarantine for seven days. Self-monitor for Covid-19 symptoms.
• Follow all local recommendations or mandates.
Vaccinated people can resume domestic travel, but should still avoid medium or large gatherings and follow the above precautions. They don’t, however, have to get tested before or after the trip — unless they develop Covid-19 symptoms.
What to plan and expect
Find out about the check-in process for the concert, which could involve electronic methods and temperature checks. You might want to plan on arriving at the concert early to avoid crowded or congested areas.
Bring a mask to wear at all times, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, the CDC has suggested. Before and after you touch things — such as seats and handrails — wipe them down and use sanitizer or wash your hands.
Since many businesses have closed public water fountains, you might need to bring water or buy some at the venue. Pack food or order food to go so you can eat it before or after the concert — if needed — when you’re outdoors and physically distanced from others.
At concerts before the pandemic, “a lot of times you’re screaming or you’re singing,” said Regina Davis Moss, the associate executive director of health policy and practice at the American Public Health Association.
But as vocalization gets louder, there would be “increased production” of respiratory droplets and aerosols that could be carrying coronavirus if expelled by an infected person, said Krystal Pollitt, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, and an assistant professor in chemical and environmental engineering at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science.
Therefore, keeping your voice “to normal volume, I think, is a reasonable ask,” Pollitt said, “especially depending on the nature of the concerts.” Classical music concerts likely have an expectation for silence among the audience, she added, “but that might not be the case for others” like pop or rock concerts.
“So, normalized speaking volume coupled with masks and physical distancing” at least 6 feet away from others supports a layered infectious disease control approach for minimizing risk of transmission, Pollitt said.
Also, try to avoid using the restroom at high-traffic times such as intermission or after the event, the CDC has advised.