UPDATED 08/26/21 4:56 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) -- An estimated crowd of nearly 40,000 people are expected to file into Soldier Field on Thursday – with no mask mandate, and no COVID-19 vaccine or testing requirement either.
The occasion is the Kanye West's "listening party" for his as yet unreleased album Donda.
As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported, the city defends the protocols. But one doctor said it absolutely is not enough.
Meanwhile, we wanted to know if the Kanye West event was the only upcoming large event lacking such precautions. So we broke down policies and plans in place across the city.
An aerial view of Soldier Field Wednesday showed the elaborate prep work ahead of Kanye West's show. It features a re-creation of the home where he grew up in on the city's South Side - smack dab in the middle of the field.
But preps and requirements for the people who will see it all firsthand? Those are not nearly as detailed – or even similar to what concertgoers at Lollapalooza in Grant Park were subject to last month.
Lollapalooza was still criticized as a larger-scale event held amid the Delta variant-fueled COVID-19 wave in which we now find ourselves. But it required proof of vaccination or negative COVID tests within 72 hours for entry.
"Compared to Lollapalooza, there's an increased amount of Delta variant spreading," said Dr. Tina Tan, an expert in infectious disease and doctor at Lurie Children's Hospital.
The plan for West's show involves 38,000 people attending. They do not need to wear masks in their seats – which are technically outside – and they won't have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test either.
"That actually is worrisome," Tan said.
Tan said yes, people will be outside – and we have seen similar policies in place at city fairs and events this summer. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to worry about.
"Forty thousand people in a more enclosed area in an outdoor setting, that really is a setup for more transmission of this virus - especially if you're not requiring for people to wear masks," Tan said.
The city departments with which we checked in defended what is in place on Chicago Park District property at Soldier Field – as well as the choice to only require masks while people are in the indoor sections of the stadium. This mirrors the citywide mask mandate now in place.
The Chicago Park District released this statement:
"Kanye West's performance is one of many examples that show that Chicago can be open and safe at the same time. We have worked with Soldier Field on COVID-19 safety protocols, as we have other venues including Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate Fields, and feel this event can be safely held with the proper mitigation efforts in place. Soldier Field will be at only a little over half of capacity – 38,000 expected attendees instead of the 63,000 capacity under normal circumstances – and we know that transmission is less likely at outdoor events.
There's also tremendous progress that is being made in getting Chicagoans vaccinated with over 70 percent of adults in the city having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While breakthrough cases do occur, 99.6% of fully vaccinated Chicagoans have NOT been diagnosed with COVID following vaccination. We will continue to watch the COVID-19 data closely, and were especially excited to learn today that the FDA has given its full approval to the Pfizer vaccine.
While masking remains optional in outdoor settings, masks are recommended for unvaccinated individuals in crowded outdoor settings. CDPH guidelines on indoor spaces mandate that anyone 2 and older must wear a mask in public indoor settings. People can find more information at https://soldierfield.net/health-safety.
e= We checked to see how it's all being handled at other events.
With the Riot Fest music festival coming up in just a couple weeks in Douglass Park, organizers said they are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test - on top of any city requirements. Riot Fest organizers said they are working with the city on all plans, and sent this link for health and safety information.
But the Cubs, White Sox, Chicago Fire, and Chicago Bears all have the same policies as the Kanye West in place - we double checked. Masks required while in indoor stadium areas, but there are no other requirements for the thousands heading to games.
The White Sox issued this statement:
"We continue to follow guidance from the state and city public health officials. Our mask policy has been updated with the latest City of Chicago health order, requiring fans to wear masks in any indoor, public spaces. Details of our continued public health and safety measures at the ballpark are available at whitesox.com/safety."
This statement came from the Chicago Fire:
"Per guidance from the CDC and based on Chicago's current local COVID-19 data, the Chicago Department of Public Health is requiring that everyone age two or older, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public indoor settings, effective Friday, August 20. The requirement allows masks to be removed while patrons are actively eating or drinking.)
"Updated health and safety protocols will be communicated in advance of the Sept. 22 match."
And while that statement from the Park District noted to those venues' protocols and the high vaccination rates in Chicago, Dr. Tan said such event policies should change.
"One should be mask mandates," she said. "Two should be, if people are planning to attend this, they should be vaccinated."
She also pointed out not everyone attending events in Chicago counts in those vaccination rates.
She is urging everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has spoken extensively on vaccinations and the mask mandate. We reached her press office to talk about the concerns about the West concert. On Thursday, the Chicago Department of Public Health issued this statement:
"In Chicago, our goal is to remain open, but careful. We know that Soldier Field has adopted many COVID-19 safety protocols and feel this event can be safely held as long as attendees abide by these precautions. Soldier Field will be at only a little over half of capacity – 38,000 expected attendees instead of the 63,000 capacity under normal circumstances – and we know that transmission is less likely at outdoor events. Outdoor events are safer than indoor events.
"For those attending the Donda Listening Party, another summer festival, or large gathering, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Public Health recommend attendees monitor for COVID-19 symptoms after events, and if symptoms develop, individuals should stay home and get tested even if vaccinated. Per CDC guidance, unvaccinated individuals who have taken part in activities that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 because they cannot physically distance as needed to avoid exposure, such as attending large gatherings, should get tested.
"There's also tremendous progress that is being made in getting Chicagoans vaccinated with over 70 percent of adults in the city having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While breakthrough cases do occur, 99.6% of fully vaccinated Chicagoans have NOT been diagnosed with COVID following vaccination. We will continue to watch the COVID-19 data closely, and were especially excited to learn this week that the FDA has given its full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. We advise unvaccinated visitors traveling to Chicago from the now 43 states and two territories on the city's Travel Advisory to get a negative COVID test result within 72 hours or quarantine for ten days when they arrive.
While masking remains optional in outdoor settings, masks are recommended for unvaccinated individuals in crowded outdoor settings. Masks are currently required for anyone 2 and older in public indoor settings. People can find more information at https://soldierfield.net/health-safety.
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