Amid swirling concerns about COVID-19 — and mere days before it kicks off — Austin City Limits Music Festival has updated its safety protocols for the 2021 event, which will now require masks in certain festival spots, including the many packed areas closest to the stages.
ACL Fest announced Tuesday, September 21 that following a review and approval by Austin Public Health, the event is adding a mask requirement to its COVID-related health and safety policy.
In August, the festival revealed its Fan Health Pledge and 2021 safety protocol, which noted that the event would require attendees to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within 72 hours of the fest.
However, questions arose about whether those protocols went far enough amid Austin’s current Stage 5 risk level and, more specifically, whether the safety guidelines met the City of Austin’s standards for large-scale events.
At issue was the city’s safety specifications for events like ACL Fest, as managed by the Austin Center for Events. In late August, the city released info on its guidelines for large events on city property or parkland, noting that outdoor events with 2,500 people or more (a scant fraction of those expected to attend ACL Fest at Zilker Park) must screen attendees prior to entering the event, and require proof of a negative COVID test obtained within 72 hours of entry.
While ACL Fest’s previously announced safety protocols met the bulk of those standards, the screening element — added in lieu of the city being able to require all attendees to be vaccinated — caused concern, particularly since such a massive undertaking like testing all attendees at festival entrances is hardly feasible. Yet, the city’s guidelines remained unclear on whether proof of vaccination could be supplied in place of a negative test.
Those special-events guidelines were updated Monday, September 20, with language indicating enhanced mitigation criteria that would include event organizers being required to:
- Conduct screening of all attendees including but not limited to requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of entering an event.
- Develop strategies that enable attendees to maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing.
- Include “mask zones” in outdoor event areas where social distancing is not possible, with masks being required at all City of Austin or Travis County facilities.
ACL Fest followed suit, releasing its updated protocols for the October event within hours of the city’s update, and including specific masking requirements.
“As required by City of Austin Order 20210811-033, masks will be required in areas of Zilker Park where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, including on festival shuttle buses, entrance lines, areas closest to the stages, and in the limited indoor areas at the festival, including our onsite merchandise store,” ACL Fest says via a release. “Free masks will be available at each entry gate.”
As they currently stand, these are the safety protocols for ACL Music Festival 2021:
- A printed copy of a negative COVID-19 test result will be required to attend the festival. The negative COVID-19 printed test result must be obtained within 72 hours of entering ACL Festival.
- Patrons who are fully vaccinated may show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination instead of proof of negative test. Patrons showing proof of vaccine do not need to be tested to enter ACL Festival. “Fully vaccinated” means it has been at least 14 days since a person has received the second shot of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccination or single shot of the J&J vaccination. Vaccination will not be required to attend ACL Festival.
Festival organizers remain steadfast in regard to their entry procedures for all attendees, which include:
- Complying with the ACL Festival Fan Health Pledge.
- Bringing a printed copy of a personal negative COVID-19 test, vaccine card, or vaccine record to the festival each day.
- Bringing a festival wristband.
- Bringing clear bags only and not bringing any liquids.
And in compliance with its Fan Health Pledge, ACL Fest organizers ask attendees to not attend if they or anyone in their party has tested positive for COVID-19 — or been exposed to anyone who has tested positive — within 14 days of attending the festival, or if attendees experience any signs of COVID-19 within 48 of attending the festival, or if attendees have traveled to any international territory identified by federal or applicable state or local governments as being subject to travel or quarantine advisories due to COVID-19.
There’s no word on ACL Fest providing refunds to any ticket holders who can’t attend based on these safety protocols.
ACL Fest notes these safety policies are subject to change, in accordance with health guidelines and changing circumstances, and plans to have even more hand-sanitizer stations onsite and will have crews frequently cleaning in high-touch areas.
Fans can get the most up-to-date information on the ACL Festival website and social media channels.