Arkansas’ socially-distant concert doesn’t actually follow health regulations
Last week, Arkansas made headlines after announcing the state is going to get the ball rolling to bring back live concerts after the coronavirus shutdown. The first show that is set to take place in the state is Travis McCready from country-rock band Bishop Gunn on May 15.
However, Arkansas' governor and the Department of Health Directives may be putting a halt to these plans.
The live music industry has taken a big hit since the coronavirus pandemic began. Various shows and concerts worldwide have been canceled because of the pandemic. This has caused uncertainty about when live music will return.
With the announcement of McCready's show, it is clear the state is trying to revive its live music industry. However, some problems with the Arkansas concert on May 15 have come up. The show is scheduled to happen three days before Arkansas' governor said indoor venues could resume live shows on May 18. However, the concert is still scheduled to happen and various health and safety precautions will occur.
The venue hosting the Arkansas concert, TempleLive, will be fogged and sanitized prior to the event. Attendees will be enforced by the venue and its employees to keep socially distant in line. Guests will also have their temperatures checked before entering the venue and are required to wear masks. All touchpoints will be constantly wiped down by staff who are also required to wear masks.
In addition to staff enforcing strict one-way walkways and allowing no more than 10 in a restroom at a time, Ticketmaster is also selling tickets to the Arkansas concert in what they’re calling “fan pods.” The pods are groups of between 2-12 seats throughout the venue. They separate attendees and cause them to avoid mingling with one another.
Despite all of these measures, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson says the event still does not comply with regulations.
In a new New York Times article, both the show's promoters and local government officials are debating over whether or not the event is legal and can proceed. Mike Brown, a representative for TempleLive, says that the coronavirus regulations put in place are discriminatory because churches have different restrictions than indoor venues in Arkansas.
As the state regulations go, concerts are supposed to limit audience numbers to fewer than 50 people. Attendees also need to maintain a six-foot distance between each other. However, churches have no limits on the number of attendees allowed as long as they maintaining the six-foot distance.
“The directive is discriminatory because the virus does not know if it’s in a body in church or high school or a music venue,” Brown says in the New York Times interview. “Not that I have anything against church, but if you can go to a church and it’s a public assembly, there is no difference. How is it OK for one group to have a public meeting and it’s not OK for a music venue to have the same opportunity?”
Despite this, Governor Hutchinson says the event does not comply with the Department of Health Directives regulations.
“I appreciate the venue owners’ working to enforce social distancing and the wearing of masks to protect the concertgoers," Hutchinson says. "But the concert remains outside of the state’s pandemic directive."
In the New York Times article, the promoters also state that the event is close to being sold out. Only 229 tickets in the 1100-seat theater are currently available to purchase for the McCready show. This is in efforts to comply with social distancing regulations.
At this moment, tickets for the acoustic performance are still on sale and the show has not been canceled.
Various states and countries worldwide have recently announced their plans to reimplement large social gatherings and events.
Last week, Ireland announced its plans to bring back live music and large social gatherings as early as this summer. Alongside Ireland, Missouri is trying to bring back live music quickly. On April 27, Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services announced its plans to re-open public spaces post-coronavirus. Last month, Spain also shared its plans to reincorporate live music into the country. If plans go as expected, by June 8, indoor events in Spain can have up to 80 people.
Despite the phases put into place to help bring back large entertainment events, Americans are hesitant. A recent poll from Reuters and Ipsos showed the majority of Americans are not willing to attend concerts or other large events until a vaccine is widely available. This has led to a worldwide discussion on how live events could happen in the future.
Last week, Live Nation announced plans to try broadcasts or drive-in concerts. This would require concert goers to stay in their cars, but would still be able to watch live performances. These plans are partly in efforts to combat the loss of revenue Ticketmaster and Live Nation have faced along with the various lawsuits they have received in regard to their refund policies. Electronic artist Marc Rebillet also recently announced his plans for a drive-in tour where his opening acts are films. Rebillet plans for the tour to happen in June.
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