Masking, proof of vaccination, COVID screening reenter concert conversation

crowd, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, COVID-19, masks, facial coverings

Fans watch Zedd perform at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on Aug. 6, 2021. Matt Pang/STAFF.

Updated July 30 at 12:10 p.m.: BottleRock Napa has now also announced a requirement that attendees either show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or proof of negative test results within 72 hours of each day anyone attends.

“We strongly encourage all guests to be fully vaccinated,” the festival announced. “To be fully vaccinated in time for BottleRock, you must receive your first doe of Pfizer no later August 6th or your single dose of Johnson + Johnson no later than August 20th.”

In light of increasing COVID-19 positivity rates and a South Bay concert, after which several patrons and musicians tested positive for the disease, promoters and venues are again looking to enforce safety through measures like mask-wearing requirements, and in some cases, either proof of vaccination or recent negative test results.

“We’re imploring people to please get vaccinated,” said Thomas Cussins, president of Ineffable Music, which runs Felton Music Hall in Santa Cruz County, where an outbreak occurred after a July 18 concert.

Reports swirled on social media this week after Los Angeles band Grateful Shred played two shows in the South Bay and became symptomatic after the second, indoor show at Felton Hall. The outdoor show took place on July 17 and was attended by people in family or friend pods. No one tested positive for COVID-19 after the outdoor show, despite the band members presumably being contagious during that time, Cussins said.

According to social media accounts, several people who attended the Grateful Dead tribute band’s show in Southern California a few days earlier also tested positive.

On July 18, 291 people—including employees, band and its crew—attended Grateful Shred’s indoor show at Felton Music Hall. It was not until the following Saturday, July 24, that a patron called the club and reported having tested positive and showing symptoms. On the same day, the band members had rapid antigen tests performed, which also came back positive. By this point, according to the band on social media, several of them were symptomatic.

“We immediately emailed everyone who attended the show,” Cussins said. On July 25, a second patron reported testing positive. Meanwhile, the band members went through comprehensive PCR tests, which also came back as positive.


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At that point, Cussins closed the club through July 29, and then extended the closure through Aug. 5. Club managers reached out to the Santa Cruz County Health Board to report the cases and assist with contact tracing.

In total, four people in the audience definitively tested positive, while as of July 26, there were three additional unconfirmed cases. Cussins said at least some of the four people who tested positive at the Grateful Shred show were fully vaccinated, and their symptoms more closely resembled a cold.

Cussins asked people who attended either show and got sick to email the venue at and report it to help with contact tracing. He said he’s personally checking emails from patrons.

The club has been thoroughly cleaned, he said, and based on advice from the health board, managers have gotten four new HEPA air filters, which have shown to slow transmission of COVID-19.

“Until this Delta variant gets under control, everyone will have to wear a mask at our club,” he said. “We’re going to be requiring masks and encouraging vaccinations.”

Some music venues are going further, joining a coalition of 300 San Francisco bars requiring proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test before allowing patrons inside. Among these is 1015 Folsom, which posted online that all patrons will need to either show proof of vaccination or a negative test result (either antigen or PCR), taken within 72 hours of shows.

And Another Planet Entertainment on Wednesday afternoon shared that it is doing the same, but with stricter rules on the timing of a COVID-19 test: within 48 hours of a show.

Several Bay Area concert fans interviewed by RIFF applauded the new safety measures.

Oakland resident Dina Robinson, who is vaccinated, said she would feel much better going inside music clubs if everyone inside could show they were vaccinated or had otherwise tested negative for COVID-19. Even still, she plans to avoid packed shows for the time being.

“[I] have resisted buying tickets to most shows I might normally do so for. Even if everyone is vaxxed or negative and showed proof, someone could still be carrying,” she said.

Since clubs have reopened, she said she’s only attended one indoor show at New Parish with lowered capacity and physical distancing. She’s not planning on attending any more shows until September. One is at the smaller-capacity Elbo Room, while the other is Halloween Meltdown (formerly known as Burger Boogaloo) in October, which will be held outdoors in Oakland.

Amy Pfeffer, of Burlingame, echoed those sentiments.

“I would definitely show proof of vaccine because I want people to know they are safe around me,” said Pfeffer, adding that she associates safety with knowing people around her are vaccinated. “I don’t wanna run the risk of getting sick or getting someone sick.”

Pfeffer said she has not attended a concert since before the pandemic, and her next planned show is at Mountain Winery in Saratoga; also outdoors.

Cussins said he agreed with some venues’ decisions to require proof of vaccination or a negative test, but said it is difficult for a small business such as Felton Music Hall to enforce stricter measures without governmental help, so he is looking for guidance.

“It’s devastating to have folks get sick right as we are reopening again,” he said.

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