After revealing last fall that vaccinations would not be required for entry, the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals have further revealed that there will no longer be any COVID-related barriers to entry at all, not even negative tests. Nor will a requirement to wear masks figure into the picture when millions of selfies go out from the desert this April.
A tweet from the Stagecoach account told the story. “Festival Admission Update: As we prepare to spend an incredible weekend in the desert together we are announcing that there will be no vaccination, testing or masking requirements at Stagecoach 2022, in accordance with local guidelines,” it read.
No similar tweet has come from the Coachella account, but the policy is the same for both Goldenvoice-promoted festivals. Coachella was revealed to have also relaxed its policies in the fine print of its “Health & Safety” rules page.
Publicizing the lack of restrictions may be more important in pacifying the audience for Stagecoach, a festival targeted at the country audience, which demographically leans more conservative and has been a hotbed of anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiment among a number of artists as well as much of the base.
Festival Admission Update: As we prepare to spend an incredible weekend in the desert together we are announcing that there will be no vaccination, testing or masking requirements at Stagecoach 2022, in accordance with local guidelines. Visit https://t.co/mSx3KWeASg for more info pic.twitter.com/wy4VzOTPBU
The California Department of Public Health issued new guidelines that go into effect Wednesday, saying vaccination proof will no longer be required for large outdoor events. But the festivals had already indicated last fall that they wouldn’t be requiring vaccine cards. Back in October, the festivals indicated that either proof of vaccination or a negative test would be sufficient for entry.
It’s been widely understood that, in the current political climate, it would be close to impossible to pull off a country music festival with COVID restrictions that much of the demographic finds onerous, with many chafing even at a requirement for negative tests. It’s also been assumed that Stagecoach would not be able to loosen any such restrictions without its sister festival adopting the same guidelines, or lack of them. But both festivals may have also just lucked out in their timing, with omicron cases apparently waning and even once pro-masking officials and celebrities being seen mingling without masks at events like the Super Bowl.
With less public fanfare than Stagecoach’s tweet, Coachella’s safety page declares an “update” which says, “In accordance with local guidelines, there will be no vaccination, testing or masking requirements at Coachella 2022.” A bullet point adds: “However, the event shall be presented in accordance with applicable public health conditions as of the date of the event and which may change at any time as determined by federal, state or local government agencies or instrumentalities, artists or the promoter; such requirements may include, without limitation, changes to capacity, attendance procedures and entry requirements, such as proof of vaccination and/or negative COVID-19 test, and other protective measures such as requiring attendees to wear face coverings.”
That fine print on Coachella’s page is followed by a warning that “COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. There is an inherent and elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 in any public place or place where people are present and there is no guarantee, express or implied, that those attending the festival will not be exposed to COVID-19.”
Coachella will take place over two successive weekends, April 15-17 and 22-24, and and will have as headliners Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Kanye West (if the latter artist was not bluffing when he said he would “need” to get an apology from Eilish before he would make good on his contract). The headliners for Stagecoach April 29 through May 1 are Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood and Thomas Rhett.
The pandemic is hardly over, of course, with reports still widespread in the area surrounding the festivals as well as statewide and nationwide. The Desert Sun reported Monday that among the Coachella Valley’s nine cities, 15,390 new COVID-19 cases had been reported in the preceding seven days. The number of deaths attributed to COVID is less grim than it once was, with 10 being reported in the area during the same period.