×

The April dates of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its companion Stagecoach country music festival have been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser. A rep for the officer tells Variety that it remains possible that the festivals could be rescheduled for later in the year, although she deferred to Goldenvoice, the festivals’ promoter, for further details.

The rep noted that an earlier version of the order accidentally referenced “concerns of a fall resurgence of COVID-19,” which led many to conclude that the festivals had been canceled entirely. The order specifies “The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival currently scheduled for April 2021 are hereby cancelled.”

Reps for Goldenvoice did not immediately respond to Variety‘s requests for comment, although further details are presumably unclear, like so much else about the pandemic. Coachella 2020 —  with headliners Travis Scott, Frank Ocean and Rage Against the Machine — and Stagecoach were initially moved from the festivals’ traditional month of April to October, and then postponed again to April 2021. A look at the Coachella website earlier this week revealed that no dates for the 2021 festival were listed at all.

However, the likelihood of any major music festivals taking place in 2021 seems questionable. Last week, the Glastonbury Festival, England’s largest music gathering, was canceled for a second consecutive year as the virus spiked anew in the country, which leaves the traditionally lucrative European concert festival season in question. The Coachella move does the same for North America; Governors Ball, New York’s largest music festival, announced dates for September earlier this month, although further details were scant.

Coachella, which sprawls across two weekends, regularly sells out its 125,000 per day tickets immediately.

When concerts, let alone festivals, might return is an open question. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, said he believes concert venues and theaters could reopen “some time in the fall of 2021,” depending on the effectiveness of the vaccination rollout, and with the caveat that audiences may be wearing masks and practicing social-distancing, suggesting that pandemic precautions may be in effect for some time.

However, what that might mean for mass-gatherings on the scale of a 125,000-capacity festival is a much different matter.

“If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall of 2021, so that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience,” Fauci said, noting that the return depends upon getting between 70% to 85% of the population vaccinated. Along with the vaccination, Fauci said venues and theaters may need to take further safety precautions, particularly if they do not have effective ventilation. He did not address gatherings on the scale of festivals.

Everything going right is, of course, a big “if.” While vaccines are beginning to roll out in earnest, the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic was nothing short of disastrous and the entire population, not to mention the economy, has been grievously impacted. Fauci said that if vaccine distribution succeeded, theaters with good ventilation and proper air filters “can then start getting back to almost full capacity of seating,” he said.

While open-air festivals do not have a comparable issue with ventilation, the sheer logistics of more than 100,000 people traveling to and gathering at a single location create immeasurable possibilities for disease transmission. Short of a proven vaccine, it is difficult to imagine festivals returning any time soon.

The pandemic’s effect on the live-entertainment business has been devastating. The global live events industry lost more than $30 billion in 2020 due to the global pandemic, including $9.7 billion at the box office, according to the year-end report by live-entertainment industry trade publication Pollstar.