Dr. Fauci is hoping US concerts can return in the fall if we can get 70% of the population vaccinated. But those in Europe, where stricter measures have been taken in response to spikes in the pandemic, are angling for something sooner. And according to a recent live event trial conducted by Primavera Sound that saw a 0% COVID-19 infection rate, there’s hope they may actually safely achieve their goals.
Dubbed PRIMA-CoV, the clinical trial was conducted with the help of Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation and the University Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol in Badalona (Barcelona). The goal was to see if a live music event held at an indoor venue with proper precautions but no social distancing guidelines could be safe from coronavirus transmission. The answer, it turns out, is yes, as none of the individuals who attended the concert tested positive for COVID-19 eight days after the event.
On December 12th, 1,047 participants were invited to the Sala Apolo venue in Barcelona for a concert featuring two DJ sets and two live bands. Attendees were between the ages of 18 and 59, and none had received a positive COVID-19 test in the previous 14 days. On the day of the event, each subject was given a rapid test and received a negative result within 15 minutes. In the end, 463 individuals entered the venue, while a control group of 496 were kept from attending the actual show.
Those that got to go into the show were each given a N95 mask at the venue entrance. Alcoholic drinks were served at a 1,600-capacity bar area separate from the 900-capacity concert room, each of which had optimized airflow and ventilation, and attendees were only allowed to remove their masks when drinking. Outdoor smoking areas had limited capacity, and even bathrooms were monitored to reduce queuing. However, once inside the concert hall, there were no social distance restrictions, and dancing and singing along were allowed.
The event lasted five hours, with the median attendance time being two hours and 40 minutes. Eight days later, all 959 trial participants returned for rt-PCR and antigen tests; none of the active group members tested positive, while two of the control group did.
“Therefore, attending a live music concert staged with a series of security measures that included a negative antigen test for SARS-CoV-2 done on the same day, was not associated with an increase in COVID-19 infections,” researchers said in publishing their results.
“That was, precisely, the objective of this study: to validate these kind of tests as an extremely useful tool to be able to carry out any type of event, whether musical or not, without social distancing,” they added in a statement (via NME).
The results are encouraging to festival promoters hoping they can bring back iconic European events this summer. “I feel very positive because I know that it’s possible,” managing director of Festival Republic (Reading & Leeds, Download Festival) Melvin Benn recently told NME. “I’m super confident about the end of the summer, I’m super confident about the beginning of the summer. If everyone over the age of 60, or definitely the age of 50, is vaccinated by the end of May, then Jesus – there should be no stopping us.”
Rapid testing at venue entrances is just one way researchers are hoping to sure up COVID-19 precautions as the concert industry eyes a return. A pair of German studies recently found that “aerosol transmission can be almost ruled out” at indoor events so long as everyone wears a mask and the venues have proper ventilation and airflow. To that end, London’s 100 Club is getting ready to pilot a new ventilation system designed to eradicate up to 99.99% of airborne pathogens, including coronavirus.
Note that all of these studies include the widespread use of effective masks. Incoming President Joe Biden reportedly plans to make masks a big push in both his inauguration speech and his first executive orders. Might we suggest preparing for both the new presidency and the return of concerts (fingers crossed) by picking up one of Consequence of Sound’s original face masks at the Consequence Shop, proceeds from which go to MusiCares’ COVID-19 Artist Relief Fund.