Live music venues throughout the state are beginning to drop safety measures adopted in September of 2021 that required vaccinated attendees, negative tests and the wearing of masks, leaving some fans questioning if a return to normalcy may be overshadowed by a still thriving pandemic.
An announcement from the state signaled the end of the Emergency Declaration — which gave healthcare providers increased access to supplies for those who needed it the most — ended over what the Governors office explains as “the virus is no longer as widespread as it once was.” Cases in the state have dropped to their lowest since June 2021, with steady positive infection rate of 3% for the past two weeks, a drastic improvement over the January surge of the Omicron variant. However concerns are raising as scientists further their research on the BA.2 variant, which is now the dominant strain of the virus in the country, and with the addition of a new strain, XE, which is potentially is 10% more contagious than BA.2, only adding to attendee woes.
“I am not planning on attending any shows still. I think I’m going to wait and see if we get another spike in cases+deaths this summer, like we did last year” says Ryan Avery, the owner of valley music staple, Related Records. Avery has not been to a live music event since 2020, and they were only one of the two individuals on a board of 12 for indie venue, Trunk Space, to vote against their own re-opening. The Trunk Space re-opened in November of 2021, with mask and vaccine requirements for all attendees. They are not one of the venues to end their safety measure.
However small and large venues alike, such as The Rebel Lounge, The Crescent Ballroom, The Marquee Theater, Valley Bar, Rhythm Room, Nile Theater, and Yucca Tap Room, have all decided to drop their safety requirements, but will implement them on a case by case basis if their featuring act for that date requests so.
Prominent scene artist, and singer and song writer, Bailey Pyritz, who performs under the stage name “Kylo Gun”, reflects on their own attendance for future shows they bought tickets to before the venue dropped safety measures. “I am now reconsidering whether I should go. If I do attend, I will take necessary precautions to quarantine for a few days after the event and get tested,” they said, stating a quarantine is something they have been doing as a means of self-induced safety measures, stating “When taking part in events that could put you at risk for contracting Covid, it is absolutely necessary in my mind to think about the impact it could have if you transmitted this virus unknowingly to somebody with a compromised health status.”
Show-goers like Avery and Pyritz were largely worried about safety measures before the end of official ones that venues chose to end, citing a lack of enforcement, and attendees not recognizing the importance of such precautions. Ryan Avery went out of their comfort zone in November of 2021, attending a standup comedy show by Chris Gethard. Regarding safety measures, Avery said, “he [Gethard] assured me that the venue would be requiring masks and checking vaccination cards at the door and… they didn’t do either of those things so I felt incredibly uncomfortable and scared the whole time.”
Bailey Pyritz remembers a similar experience at larger shows hosted at The Marquee Theater, “The venues took vaccine requirements seriously, but definitely did not have that same attitude towards masks. Even if they did, it would have probably been very difficult to enforce because of the number of people attending and the way a majority of them didn’t wear masks.”
Arizona is only the 28th most vaccinated state out of all in the country, and our dependency on free tests to accurately measure our positive cases and infection rate, has been terminated as result of the Governors office choosing to end the Emergency Declaration. Furthering the concern for others, Yale Medicine found that approximately 3% of the United States population makes up immunocompromised people, illuminating a March 2021 study that showed only 56% of immunocompromised people built up enough protection against the virus, even after vaccinations.
While the shows may be returning in full force, skepticism and regard for safety will still be the forefront of decisions made by people like Pyritz, saying in part, “I am going to have the same compassion for immunocompromised people, not only the ones in my close circle but even random strangers who could be at risk, and I hope others will too.”