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COVID-19 Cases On The Rise As Riverview Music Festival Debuts In Des Moines

Riverview Park in Des Moines is hosting the first Riverview Music Festival Saturday, Sept. 4. Adjacent to the amphitheater is a fully ADA accessible, circus themed playground.
Lindsey Moon
Riverview Park in Des Moines is hosting the first Riverview Music Festival Saturday, Sept. 4. Adjacent to the amphitheater is a fully ADA accessible, circus themed playground.

The Des Moines Music Coalition has sold the event to less than 50 percent capacity for the venue.

As Riverview Music Festival approaches its inaugural event this weekend in the Des Moines metro, the state is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.

Dr. Austin Baeth, who works in internal medicine at UnityPoint in Des Moines, has been consulting with the festival on COVID-19 protocols. The majority of attendees to the fest are expected to be between the ages of 18 and 30. Baeth says roughly 40 percent of people in that age group are currently fully vaccinated in Iowa.

“We just don’t know, with the delta variant, what is actually safe anymore. It’s so contagious. Riverview has committed to opening this to reduced capacity. Many music festivals are doing that. They’ve only opened ticket sales to 50 percent of what maximum capacity is for the Riverview park area,” Baeth said.

“In a perfect world, proof of vaccination would be mandatory, and/or participants would have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in the prior 24-48 hours. That wasn’t something the festival was able to enact right now given the availability of testing. My biggest advice for concertgoers right now is to use the space that the festival is providing for social distancing.”

Kukuu Saah, an organizer for the event, confirmed that in advance of the weekend, the festival has sold less than 50 percent capacity of the venue ensuring everyone has room to spread out.

“We’re taking this as seriously as we can, and, given vaccination rates, we are concerned, so we’re providing free masks to anyone who wants one, and we will be following the protocols we’ve posted on our website,” Saah said.

Stay Out Of The Pit

You can read the festival’s COVID-19 plan on their website. Dr. Baeth shared tips for staying healthy at events like the Riverview Music Festival.

“The risk will never be zero if you go into a crowded public setting, and so if people do want to go, there are ways to significantly reduce that risk. Here’s how:

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Wear a mask, especially if you’re in the pit, waiting in line to get drinks, waiting in line to get food, or waiting in line to use the restroom.
  • Wear sunglasses or eye protection. COVID-19 can be transmitted by droplets getting into your eyes.
  • Bring your own hand sanitizer.
  • Stay out of the pit."

Large music festivals, including Hinterland that took place in Iowa in August, have not turned into super spreader events. Final attendance numbers for Hinterland have not been reported.

Many of the cases that can be traced to large, outdoor concerts are directly tied to the pit near the front of the stage.

“There was a festival in Oregon where there were over 60 cases tied to the festival, and they were all in the pit,” Dr. Baeth says. “Try to go into an area where you can keep your distance from others. If you are hell bent on going into the pit, wear an N95 mask and eye protection, and make sure you are fully vaccinated. I think most people forget that COVID is transmitted when the virus hits the eye. So, in that sort of setting, at minimum wear sunglasses.”

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer