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With No Vax Requirements And Few Masks, Coachella Looks Like A Time Warp

A young white man on a stage holds the microphone towards a massive outdoor crowd. He wears a mesh sports jersey with the number 76 and white pants. A colorful structure and a Ferris wheel can be seen in the background. It is daytime.
Dylan Minnette of Wallows performs onstage at the Outdoor Theatre during at Coachella on April 16, 2022.
(Frazer Harrison
Getty Images for Coachella)
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Thousands of music and fashion fans have flocked to the desert for the return of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival.

The scene is a bit of a time warp; the crowd looks much like it did in the years before the festival's hiatus, with concert-goers decked out in fringe, flower crowns, and very few face masks. 

Coachella organizers did not put any requirements in place for attendees to be vaccinated, tested or wear masks. This despite the fact that the omicron variant BA.2 is believed to be the most contagious version of the virus since it spread worldwide in 2020.

Health experts had expressed concern when festival producers removed any requirements for vaccinations, negative tests or masks.

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Andrew Noymer, a UC Irvine epidemiologist and demographer, told us “the wise thing to do would be to require testing and vaccination upon entry.” The reality, he said, is we’re back to “partying like it's 2019.”

“I think it's gonna be a challenge to have our cake and eat it too, in terms of back to normal on the one hand and the fact that COVID is still with us on the other hand.”

According to The Desert Sun, COVID-19 cases increased 77% in the region following the first weekend of the festival. Scottish-American singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs and DJ Satori both had to cancel their performances for the second weekend after testing positive.

In L.A. County public health officials have noted a spike in cases locally, pinning that uptick on the BA.2 variant.

Experts encouraged Coachella attendees to mask both in indoor settings and very crowded outdoor settings. Testing sites were available on site and around the Coachella Valley.

The festival, which wrapped up its second weekend, sold out well in advance and reportedly drew 750,000 attendees.

On the plus side, Noymer noted that "the crowd at Coachella tends to skew young and vigorous. So a lot of people who may get infected will have asymptomatic cases I would imagine. And a lot of them will go undetected."

Jackie Fortiér contributed to this story.

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Updated April 24, 2022 at 3:43 PM PDT
This story updated with quotes from Andrew Noymer and details about reported infections in Riverside County.