Two days before Florida sustained a 10,000 increase in COVID-19 case counts, I Love Florida HOUSE organized an event headlined by Claude VonStroke at River City Brewing Company in Jacksonville. As the venue is outdoors the gathering appears to have been lawful – but viral footage from the event has drawn scrutiny from healthcare professionals as well as the public at large.
The clip shows Claude VonStroke (real name Barclay Crenshaw) performing in front of a crowded dance floor with few masks visible. With lawmakers across the globe reimposing lockdowns to curb a pronounced fall resurgence of the novel coronavirus, many have questioned the ethics of the organizers as well as the laissez faire policies put in place by Jacksonville authorities.
“From a purely observational perspective, before testing and contact tracing have been conducted, given the dense population on the dance floor and the lack of masks, this has strong potential to be a super-spreader event,” said University of North Florida Associate Professor Chau Kelly. “I’ve watched the video several times now and can spot only one mask on a patron toward the back of the club.”
On their Facebook event page, I Love Florida HOUSE wrote that attendees were required to wear face masks, use hand sanitizer, and have their temperature taken upon entry. Attendees were told to adhere to social distancing guidelines, but promoters reportedly had a difficult time enforcing them at the event.
“You can take a horse to water but you can’t make them drink,” said organizer Kyle Myers. “There’s always room to improve. We had sanitizing stations, wipes, extra masks, we were in an open-air venue. It didn’t go as smoothly as we’d like, but we’re also under a microscope right now.”
River City Brewing Company General Manager Kristine Moore has suggested that the event wasn’t as crowded as the viral video makes it appear.
“We’re an open-air venue. For Christmas, we usually have 1,800 people outside,” Moore said. “This was 400 people. Anyone coming to the event wore a mask and got temped. The only time people went inside was to use the bathroom and they had to wear masks. We wouldn’t even let the bathroom fill up, we only had two people at a time.”
With COVID-19 vaccine candidate trials showing promise, music industry professionals hope quandaries like the one faced by the Jacksonville event’s organizers will soon be a thing of the past. Until then, pop-up rapid testing facilities like the ones offered by Swallow Events in the U.K. may help live music return to some semblance of normalcy.
At the time of writing, 914,000 COVID-19 case counts have been reported in Florida with a resulting death toll of nearly 18,000 according to the New York Times.